Tag Archives: birthday

Essays on aging, from Oliver Sacks, on my birthday

 

 

It’s my birthday. I’m into my seventh decade. Born in ’61, now 61.

 

My first decade was one of being shy and smart and tall and skinny and bullied. My second decade was one of growth: growing out of everything, from my clothes to my hometown. Cruising into my twenties I became independent and anxious and happy. By my thirties, I became responsible. In my forties, I became lost. In my fifties, I was crushed.

I expected worst things still to fall on me in my sixth decade, and I was surprised instead by things that uplifted me. Where I will land in my seventh decade, I don’t know. On good days I look to remain open, on bad days I hope for a close.

In all that time, with rare exception, I have taken off every day since I started working in the early 80s. Often those free days were filled with simple pleasures. Mixed in with that was some contemplation.

I think two good things to contemplate on this day are these two essays by Oliver Sacks. One was written when he was still vibrant and turning 80: Opinion | The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.) in The New York Times. The second one when he was dying of cancer not much more than a year later: Opinion | Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer, also The New York Times.

What impression they will leave on will depend on your current perspective. I encourage you to move around, literally and figuratively, to have to best perspective on life that you can have. The days will be what they are, regardless. How you perceive them depends on where you stand and how you look out.

On taking time off on your birthday

Since I started work, decades ago, I have always taken the day off from work for my birthday. There are two good reasons for this:

  1. You get to celebrate and do things special things. I would often go to the Senator in downtown Toronto and have the fantastic breakfast they serve. Then I would roam around downtown and shop for things I love. I’d meet friends for lunch. Perhaps go to an afternoon movie or just go home and have a nap before the evening festivities. Whatever makes a great day, having the day off means you get to indulge in it.
  2. You get to avoid difficult things. Work is often difficult, and difficult things can spoil your birthday. If you have a great job then this isn’t such a problem. But if you have a demanding job, it’s hard to enjoy your birthday with all that. Best to take the day off!

The next time your birthday rolls around, I recommend you do the same. Tell people in advance, book off the time, and plan your own idea of a great day. You’ll be glad you did. It’s like a gift you give yourself.

This year I am celebrating a milestone birthday and am taking off the entire week! How old am I? The dog photo contains a hint. 🙂

Happy birthday for whenever your day is!

(Top photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash. Dog Photo by Glenn Han also on Unsplash)