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I guess I’m good, really. There aren’t things I want – anything that piques my interest for under $20 I’m probably just going to buy, whether it’s a pen or a Nerf gun or a bomber of milk stout – and if you gave me actual wishes for my birthday, I’d probably spend them all on family health and regime change (unless I could sneak an iPhone X-Minus in there at the end, of which etc). I mean, there are absolutely things I wish had gone differently in the past, but wishing for a better past is pretty much the textbook definition of insanity and I’ve finally gotten better at avoiding it. Just to have pleasant weather, snuggled sleep-ins, road trips, baseball, pints, the chance to wear comfortable footwear without socks…

That would be enough, wouldn’t it?

-Feb 28, 2018

February is plainly a time to be down in the dumps, it seems. As far back as this blog goes, February is when I mourn for the old days in DC, when I fret over aging and the slowly curdling future, when I resolve that what I need is just some peace and quiet with no phone or internet for four hours, two pints and one book. This year, events have conspired to sort of slap me out of it a little – the problem being that while it’s kind of solipsistic to be complaining about your sprained ankle when someone else has a broken leg or worse, it doesn’t make that ankle any easier to run on.

I don’t recall my birthday being that big a deal for most of my adult life. Certainly not in college, when it was just a reminder that I didn’t really have friends or a crew of my own. Absolutely not in grad school (I can’t even remember having any birthday celebration in the whole Vanderbilt era). I did birthday things in DC, mostly going down the 4P’s, but I don’t remember any particular birthday at the pub standing out aside from the first one in 2000 (site of the Jameson vs Bushmills taste test and “I can whup EVERY man in the house”). After all, for the most part, birthdays are for kids to eat cake and tear into presents and go nuts in the bouncy house or whatever. It’s not for grown-ups, unless you’re hitting some milestone.

20 and 30 were uneasy years, because I was wary of the odometer rollover and felt like I was losing something I hadn’t made the most of, but I wasn’t old enough to be freaked out about it the way I was seven years ago. 21 was supposed to be a milestone but ended up with me in the emergency room with an ear infection, stone cold sober (and with no friends to celebrate, it was kind of pointless anyway). And then, for the last decade or more, it always seems to coincide with some kind of depression, whether work-related (2007-08, 2013-15) or political (2017-present) or relative-based (2011). And I wonder about the causality there…am I naturally getting depressed because I’m getting older, or do I subconsciously work myself into a lather because I know my birthday’s coming up? Given how well I cope with the bloody “dads and grads” season, I wouldn’t be surprised if my head is working against me. Again.

Because this is a milestone year in its own way. Thirty years since going to the mountaintop and looking over on the other side, only to stumble back hard. Twenty-five since thinking I was getting a second chance in grad school. Twenty years since the dot-com boom was supposed to be heralding a new millennium. Fifteen years since pulling up stakes in DC and moving to California. And ten since taking this job that I didn’t plan on having for ten years, feeding the kind of permanent black cloud I used to only associate with undergrad…but which I have reconciled myself to because it doesn’t take that much effort and has a lot of vacation time, and that’s what I need at this point in my life.

What do I want for my birthday? An Irish passport, an iPhone XS-Minus (or at least an SE2), a pied-a-terre in the west end of Galway, fifty million Euro in unmarked bills and not to have to wake up from it all. Okay, what attainable would I like for my birthday? I’d like my car back from six weeks in the dealership service and I’d like to stop having night terrors and stress dreams. If I could just spend the rest of 2019 in peace and quiet before all hell breaks loose…that would be something.

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