I don't recall much of my tenth birthday. I'm sure that I was excited to reach double digits, but I couldn't tell you who was at my party or what we did. I do remember that during the spring of fifth grade, which is the school year that I was ten, my teacher had us write short essays predicting where we would be and what we would be doing in twenty years. 2008 seemed so very far away, in 1988. Now I'm looking back and I wonder where the years have gone. Mrs. Gropman promised us that in 2008, she would mail us our essays. I don't know if she will, or even if she's still teaching, but with the 2007-2008 school year about to begin, I've been thinking about it.
I can't remember my twentieth birthday either. It was the second summer that I worked at the Hallmark store in the mall with Melissa, but I doubt I worked on my birthday. I do remember that when my grandmother called, I told her I was 2/5 of the way to AARP. It was part of a running joke between Grandma and my dad. AARP accepts members once they turn fifty, whether they are retired or not. Grandma, well past that age, was amazed when my father started getting their recruitment mailings (I believe in his early forties), so every year on his birthday he would tell her how many years he was from AARP. He turned fifty in May of 1997, and that would have been the end of that joke - except that in August 1997, I turned twenty, a nice round number. I wish that Grandma were still around to tease about it this year.
I don't have any real plans for celebrating this year on my actual birthday. There will be a cake at work, of course, and I expect I'll spend much of the evening on the phone with family members as usual. On Friday night, however, I'm going out to a very nice dinner with friends, and I'm excited about that.
This week, I've been re-reading the Lois McMaster Bujold book Memory. The one-sentence description of the book is "Miles hits thirty; thirty hits back." I've planned for years to read it for my own thirtieth birthday.
Miles Vorkosigan, protagonist of many of Bujold's Vorkosigan novels, lived hard and fast in his early life. He'd become a covert agent of his government, and the admiral of a mercenary fleet which operated all over the inhabited worlds. He had combat experience aplenty, and had even been revived from the dead. That's where the problem started. Lingering medical issues from the revival were the direct cause of a mission going wrong unnecessarily. Then, while writing up the report, Miles wrote a second version which covered up his participation in the mess, through strategic omissions. Then he submitted the short version. He got caught, of course, and it was only the combination of a decade of amazing service plus a family relationship to the Emperor which kept him clear of a court-martial. He was forced to resign for medical reasons without prejudice, and the whole thing was swept under the carpet.
Miles was the son of a Great Man, who was himself the son of a Great Man. His immediate family had a tradition of service, let alone the overall cultural expectation that every man would serve in the military. He had never envisioned anything else for himself. His self-image and his world shattered. He sat down and did nothing at all for two days, until his cousin forced him to get up and eat and bathe, and weeks later he was out at the country estate, still trying to find direction. On his thirtieth birthday, he tried to visit a grave, to have a chat with a literal ghost from his past. On the way, his not-quite-eighteen-year-old driver made him feel like quite an old man. He didn't find the grave. Instead, he found change, progress, life going on because that's just what you do. He didn't absorb the whole lesson right away, but over time it sank in.
Back in the capital, he discovered a mystery, solved it, and uncovered a conspiracy within the government. By the end of the book, he earned himself a new job, honorable and prestigious enough to make up for getting booted out of the military. In subsequent volumes, he found romance, married, and started a family, while still having interesting and challenging adventures.
I've never fallen as far as Miles, thank God. Still, on my thirtieth birthday, I'm looking for direction in my life, and talking with the ghosts of my past. I'm waiting for the one event, insignificant by itself, that precipitates the Happily Ever After. I hope that, like Miles, I recognize it when I see it and pursue it until it means something.
Along the lines of moving forward, I make the following resolutions for the next year, or at least the next decade:
1. I will attempt dating. That was my goal for 2007, and I still hope to try it before the end of the calendar year, but if I don't manage it by then, I don't get to give up.
2. I will finish writing the Dear Friends series here in my LiveJournal. I have only two more letters to write, plus a conclusion, and it's well past time to get them done. I have other writing projects in mind that I would like to begin.
3. I will hang things on my walls. I have a mirror, two picture frames, a curtain rod and curtains sitting on the floor of my bedroom. It is time to decorate.
4. I will save money for a new car. I've already started on this. I plan to buy my next car in early 2009.
5. I will continue to push at the edges of my comfort zone. I've been doing this for a couple of years, and as I push outward, my comfort zone expands. This is progress, this is growth. I will continue to grow.
6. I will use my intellect. Whether through creative projects, educational reading, gaming, day-to-day conversation or any other way, I will think creatively and analytically. I will not take the easy route and slide into mediocrity.
That may not be a nice round number, but it's an honest list. Check back in a year and see how I've done.
Happy Birthday to me!