Birthdays and Glory Days

As I write this, I’m basically in the process of turning 38. As no one I know has a clue as to what time I was born, I just have to go with the turn of the date to the 29th day of the seventh month of the year.

I love my birthday and celebrating it. All my life, I always wanted to share it with someone cool, and over the past few years I’ve not only found some great people who have the same birth date, but realized that it’s Wil Wheaton’s. How I missed that back when the cast of Stand By Me was all over the teen magazines is beyond me, but, hey – I grew up and he grew up and it turns out we’re both geeks, too. Take that, all other schoolgirl crushes! We may both be taken, but we will always share a birthday.

Now he’s even declared it Don’t Be A Dick Day. I like it!

Even better, I learned that exactly 18 years before I was born, President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law, creating my favorite government agency – NASA.

It’s a good birthday.

This is a bit more personal of a post than I would normally put on this site, but back when I was first talking about the idea of doing a site like this, someone said, “It’s a bit like “It Gets Better”, but for geek girls and women!” When birthdays come up, It’s natural to take stock a bit, look at twists and turns your life has taken, get a little sentimental, and see where you are now and where you would like to go.

Last week, I played guitar on the Hudson River with a few hundred people from New York and New Jersey, led by the Guitar Bar All-Star Band. One of the selections for the evening was “Glory Days” and it was the first time I ever really noticed all of the lyrics in the song. It’s such a sad song, all about how the best of life is behind the characters, and how they drink and reminisce. As I was figuring out how to play it, it made me sadder and sadder for the people in the song, because truly believing the best of life has already happened is the best way to make sure it does not get better.

I don’t believe in things like The Secret or wishing your way to a better life, but hope and optimism are necessary as a foundation to keep building on. A positive attitude draws positive people into your life, drives you to keep trying even when it feels like nothing is panning out, and keeps you feeling okay even when times are tough.

I’ve been through some incredibly tough times in my life, and been called “unlucky” so many times I can’t count them. I’m not unlucky at all, I’m just alive. Loss, injury, natural disasters, and emotional pain are an integral part of the process of finding your own humanity.

As I’m 38 today, I’ve also had some people make comments about drawing close to 40, and how it’s time to start lying about my age.

Well, let me tell you – I’m proud of my years and looking forward to being 40. Every number added on means another year of survival, and usually means that life has gotten just a little bit better than the year before. Even when I think of all the incredible things I’ve gotten to do in my past  – from seeing some of the world’s greatest musicians from inches away, to seeing space shuttles launch and land from as close as possible, to traveling and having grand adventures alone and with beloved friends, to simply getting to live in one of the best little cities in the world – I think to myself, “It’s all uphill from here!”

I discovered a few new lines in my face last night. About 15 years ago I got my very first line, a worry line right between my eyebrows. Last night? The new lines were all laugh lines. I think my face alone speaks to the difference between being in your 20s vs. 30s. Until I hit the big 3-0 I could have been a professional worrier and was sad and angry most of the time, and most of my peers in age seemed to be the same way. Now? I laugh a lot. Every single day. Even the bad days are filled with laughter.

Life is hard, there are difficult choices to make, tough times to get through, mistakes to be made, and there is no end to the work we must do. You can either give in and drown in the difficult, or find a way to laugh until things lighten up.

So, today, as I take stock, I’m very proud of my new laugh lines and even just reaching this age. I led a pretty crazy life for a long time and making it to here was far from guaranteed. There are many things I’d like to improve, but I’m okay with where I’m at right now and have plans for making those improvements a reality.

And that’s about all you can hope for – because life is a constant series of attempts to be a better person than you were yesterday.

Not only does it get better, but it gets easier to find and appreciate the truly happy moments that make everything else worth it.

Not only does it get better, but it becomes less difficult to let go of the things that dragged you down when younger.

Not only does it get better, but you become better. You gain more skills, become better at balancing life (not that anyone really manages full balance, but it does get easier to find the right blend for you), appreciate people more, and have much more clarity to your purpose. Most importantly, you know yourself better, get more comfortable with your own strengths and weakness. and can use that knowledge to your advantage going forward.

We’ve taken a little bit of a summer break around here, but one of the many reasons I know my life will get better is this site and the community that inspired it. We have some great plans in the works for the coming months, and it keeps me motivated even while I’m doing life’s necessary drudge work.

As I turn 38, I’ve got this site, I’m in nearly the best physical shape of my life (and look better than ever – not the point of working out, but it’s a nice perk!), I’ve been writing some of my best music yet, I’m fulfilling a few lifelong education dreams, I’m building a new career that I’m very passionate about, I’m working on my very first research paper with one of the greatest collaborators I could hope for, I live somewhere that really feels like home, and I know there are immense amounts of love in my life. Everything in the past just can’t compare.

I’m no longer young, but not yet old.

I have no idea how many more years I have, but my goal is to make sure that the last year of my life is the very best – because each subsequent year is just that little bit better than the one before.

We are inundated with articles with titles like “30 Under 30 to Watch” and they can make it look like success must be acquired early. Always remember – those people are news because they are the exception. Most success is found after 30, and plenty is found many years later. Outside of professional sports, it’s never too late to find your own.

So, my birthday wish this year is that you take stock a little, too, think about where you are, how you got there, and how you are going to reach your goals. Few obstacles are insurmountable, no matter how large they loom or scary they may be. Nothing is impossible if you break it down into manageable steps, no matter how lofty or mundane your dreams. Second chances and acts do, indeed, exist.

So keep trying, and it will get better. Give up and look to the past for your “Glory Days”, and it’s far less likely, no matter what path you might take.

If you agree with the above, please add your own tales of life getting better in the comments, I know for a fact there are women and girls who could really use more of those.

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