I turned 56 this week, and received several hundred well wishes on social media. This is how I thanked my friends.
Fifty Six isn’t the sort of milestone birthday that 40 or 50 or 60 is, but this birthday felt like a landmark even if I didn’t celebrate as if it were. For most of the last 15 years I’ve been eluding ruin in some form or another. I was a music journalist then that stopped generating income so I became a sportswriter. That dried up, so I went back to music. That ended abruptly so I went full time in the food business running a cheese counter. I discovered that the business model for most cheese shops is as broken as it is for most newspapers, so I slid over to craft beer. That works but only if I could restart the journalism. I found two editors who seem committed to keeping my inbox full, if not overflowing. Meanwhile, two family members died. My health has been haphazard, and the financial ups and downs have been so extreme that for a while the guards on the ground floor in the housing court building at 111 Centre St. knew me by face. Five years ago, I had a trip there where the only thing on my mind was forestalling eviction long enough to move my stuff in an orderly manner. I got a continuance and landed a promising full time job and a big catering gig to make most of my arears go away. I crowdsourced the rest and well, I’m still here in this apartment.
This time last year I’d kind of had it. I’d begun to wonder if this well more than a decade old struggle was worth it, but I soldiered on mostly on the notion that I knew this game plan and I just didn’t have the energy to formulate another one. Yet work was going well. I could see the break-even mark in the offing, and I figured beyond that lay the possibility of retiring debt and rebuilding my life.
Earlier this year, I had an epiphany. I think during the last 15 years I’ve pretty much experienced every missile that the agents of chaos can shoot my way. I’ve dodged every land mine too, and I’ve grown immune to their poison gasses. I realized that I didn’t need to live in fear anymore. Sure, it’s in the back of my mind as is true of everyone that derives a chunk of their change from journalism. But I have several plan b’s ready, and more importantly I have several initiatives in motion that will increase both my income and my stability. This, in other words, was what the struggle was all about. I’m beginning to think I’m winning, and I haven’t felt that way since I was 41.
Birthday was hectic and work filled. It was Wednesday, and Wednesdays are often work-filled and hectic. I did decide to start carving out more time to chill and maybe more time to gameplan. I feel like I’ve grown really good at changing direction in mid-air. I’d like to limit my use of that skill going forward to dance and yoga classes and not so much real life.
So thank you thank you thank you thank you for the hundreds and hundreds of birthday wishes. In years past, I’d see these wishes and despair over the fact that I had no idea when I would see some of you. Now, I do know. Not specifically, but now it just requires planning, not a miracle. That much, thanks in no small part to this legion of friends who have my back, has been accomplished.