Yesterday was my 37th birthday. I honestly do not know how to feel about this fact. There are so many things that I still want to see and do, so many things that have already been done, but so many more still to go. I've had a few people ask me what I would like for my birthday. The answer to that question is at times still too difficult, and so I say honestly that I have all of the things that this world can give me already: friendship, family, and a peace approaching happiness.
There are moments in each day where it is impossible to fathom how we arrived at this point. Through a series of small decisions and breaks in each day over the past 37 years I've arrived at a point in my life that I don't think I could have ever predicted. I have been fortunate to have known a love so deep that it can never be unfelt. I have also suffered losses so unexpected and cruel that they cannot be described in any known way. In between I have been lucky to know all of you and to forge connections that will last a lifetime.
At this time last year Melissa and I were sitting down to dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Otro Cafe. She surprised me that night with a pair of USB driven Nintendo controllers. Melly had a habit of taking small notes on things over the course of the year, plotting and planing for presents. Somewhere along the line I had shown her the controllers on Amazon. You can plug them in to your desktop. Then, with the aid of a (questionably legal) NES emulator, you can play Nintendo to your heart's content on your computer. Every game at your fingertips, provided your antivirus subscription is current and you have a more liberal view of our nation's copy-write laws.
We raced home to try them out. Some couples look forward to birthdays and special holidays for some romantic time together. We were excited to play Super Mario Brothers. We stayed up late that night playing Nintendo, teaching each other the tricks needed to beat our favorite games and marveling at our long dormant muscle memories. Nintendo, it seems, is just like riding a bike. We played again and again over the next several months. Whenever one of us had a bad day, or needed a little sanity break from work. Whenever we wanted to feel like kids again.
I gave up the emulator for a while after July. It just didn't feel good anymore. Each game had darker undertone. Something that brought us so much fun suddenly felt sad to me, so I walked away from it. Then, on New Year's day, I picked up the controller again and worked my way through the Legend of Zelda. To some degree I was solving problems in my subconscious while I worked my way through Hyrule. Yes, it was sad, but it also felt somehow right, like I was somehow allowing myself to enjoy things again.
As my birthday approached this year I began thinking about what I wanted to get out of it. I decided that I didn't really want it to be anything, just another Sunday. I had invites from friends and family, and largely turned them down. It doesn't feel right to celebrate, or try to repeat my birthdays from past years, with exception to one thing. The Nintendo.
My friend Matt was in town this weekend. (not Portland Matt, or Econ Professor Matt, This is Grad School Matt. I know a lot of Matts, try to keep up.) Grad school Matt and I hadn't caught up in person since about 2011 or so. He wasn't here for my birthday or anything, he lives in Albany now and made the trip back to Arizona to see friends, including me. He stayed at the house Friday through Sunday. Much of our time was spent hanging out and reminiscing about old friends and professors. There was a fair amount of beer drinking and some unofficial class reunions thrown in. We ended each night playing Nintendo and talking about Melly, his wife and kids, and of friends not seen but also not forgotten.
I suppose that is how life is supposed to go. You spend your time alternating between the great times and the not so good. If you can manage it, you can maintain a well of joy and purpose to help you through. As I reflect on getting another year older I think about what makes me feel young. When its your time to go, you won't remember all of the emails you sent, or if you were able to upload the account forecasting matrix to sharepoint on time. You will instead remember the little moments along the way, playing video games with someone you love, or joking about pranks that you pulled 20 years ago. The spring that feeds the well of joy is fed by those moments, and it's important open the flood gates every now and again.
Thank you everyone, for the wonderful birthday wishes. I would not be here without you all!