As I watch my healthy 3-month-old baby boy grow, I feel a great deal of happiness and gratitude. I also feel a great deal of existential trepidation. In many ways, it feels like the milestones of my life are all in the rearview mirror now. Rationally, I know this is not true. At the ripe old age of 34 I have much to look forward to, or at least, I hope I do. But, there is a lot that has already happened.
For a time, birthdays are something people look forward to. During early adulthood, some birthdays unlock key privileges: driving a vehicle, purchasing alcohol, cigarettes, and vapes, the power to vote, and accessing the rights of a legal adult. Other milestones are not tied to a specific age, but often occur in rapid-fire during early adulthood: graduating, getting a job, getting married, adopting animals or starting a family.
After a while, our society stops celebrating these steps in life and begins to view aging as a slow wind down into death. There may be milestones to celebrate, but often they are those of your kids. I’m sure I’ll celebrate our son’s achievements, and considering the excitement he produced when he rolled over, those celebrations are a meaningful part of our lives, too. But, what if you don’t have kids? Or what if your kids are grown? Many people my age don’t believe we will be able to afford to retire, so what else is there?
What if we celebrated other milestone birthdays with as much joy as we do turning 1, 16, 18, 21? I have long thought we should make a bigger deal out of turning 35. After all, at that age you are now eligible to run for president (if you meet the other requirements). Why not commemorate the fact that the founding fathers thought that by 35 you were wise enough to govern a nation?
Fortieth birthdays have stereotypically been cause for despair, but I think it’s the perfect time to take a bucket list trip. Life expectancy in America is approximately 80 years old, so the halfway point is a perfect time to reflect on where you have been, and where you want to go. Fiji, here I come. This gives me six years to get my savings account replenished.
Access to senior citizen discounts is something I know older adults celebrate. Many of those start at age 55. What could you do to celebrate your “sexy sixtieth” birthday? Perhaps that speculation is better left out of print. I can imagine an event in later life that is similar to the Festivus “airing of grievances” from Seinfeld, an occasion to tell everyone just what you think of them, before it’s too late, for better or worse.
There are many ways we mark the passage of time, and celebrating life’s special moments is one way to measure, and enjoy, our time on earth. I look forward to figuring out some fun ways to make the next decades just as memorable as my first three.