Let’s take a trip down Misery Lane

I’m going to ask you to bear with me as I run through some math that means more to me than it does to you. If you’ve got the kind of aversion to math that I do, then I’m sorry. I promise you that there’s going to be a point to it all.

My thirty-eighth birthday is coming up in the fall. It’s not a landmark birthday, and it’s not exactly around the corner. Nonetheless, it’s been on my mind lately.

I’ve mentioned before that I like any day that gives me an excuse to reboot myself. Mondays are great in that regard, and the first of any month is terrific. If a new month starts on a Monday, hot damn!

As for birthdays, I was born on the first of October. That’s the start of a month and a quarter alike! And this year, it’s on a Sunday, which is technically the start of a new week, even though Monday gets all the glory.

I don’t tend to celebrate my birthday, and I don’t tend to care about getting older. But I love to capitalize on arbitrary dates as starting points for self-improvement. And wow, this year, what a goldmine!

Can I tell you something, though? I haven’t much liked being thirty-seven. It’s been a tough year, in which I learned a lot about myself that I’d like to change. And if I’ve learned anything in my years of excitement over arbitrary dates, it’s that change takes time because it’s tough.

The best way to put it, I suppose, is that this is the first birthday I’m approaching with the goal of earning the life I have. And it’s far enough away that I’ve got lots of time in which to prepare for it.

Sure, there are more depressing ways to put it, and I’ve get a few of them on my mind from time to time. Let’s go ahead and itemize a sample:

  • I’m closer to death than to birth.
  • It’s too late to play the young man’s game of dreaming about future fame and fortune.
  • I’ve failed too many times, and wronged too many people, to ever be considered a good and worthwhile person.
  • The only fun I can hope to have from here on out would just be a peripheral shadow of someone else’s fun.
  • Sometimes, and I’m just putting this out there, but maybe everyone I love would be better off without me.

Whoa, now! These are not good thoughts! I’m not trying to glamourize them, or to be in any way self-indulgent. The only reason to mention that I’m thinking any of these things is because I’ll bet a lot of you are thinking some of them, too.

These milestone dates sneak up on you. I mean, you look forward to setting new habits in motion on your birthday, or on New Year’s Day, and you end up failing. You can’t just rush the adoption of a new habit at the last minute.

And sometimes, you’re not just talking about adopting new habits. Sometimes, you’re talking about dropping bad habits. Sometimes, it’s more accurate to say you’re doing away with a person you’d rather not be anymore.

For me, that’s relatively new ground. With a few teenage exceptions, I’ve approached my birthdays feeling like a good man on the right track. I may well do that again this year, but so far, I’m not sure I’m heading in that direction.

If you’re in the same boat, then let’s give ourselves a buffer. I’m looking ahead to a birthday that’s more than a couple of months away. I know it’s going to take work to adopt some better habits in the year that follows. It’s going to take a lot of time, and a lot of failures. But I think we’re all going to come out the other end as better people.