Birthdays

So very specific, and yet so very arbitrary.

You can point at someone’s birth date, time, and place. You can probably stand on the exact spot at the exact time, perhaps even with the exact same people who were present.

But in the end, what is it really?

28 years later, I’m still trying to figure it out. Odds are that I’ll be in the same boat at 56 years, and 84 years, if I live to be that old.

Yeesh…I had to pull out a calculator to do 56+28, just now. I mean, I could have done the math in my head, but I instinctively knew it would be faster to get the calculator to do it for me. Once upon a time I was a calculating machine. Now I’m just a broken-down shell of an engineering-student-turned-english-graduate.

So anyway, I’m 28. Woo hoo. It’s not that I’m unexcited. I’m just not over-excited. On the scale of excited, I’m a five our of ten.

Interestingly, most people would perceive 5/10 to be the midpoint, but that’s not actually true in this case. If the scale represents total possible excitement, we have to consider zero to be part of it–I could theoretically have no excitement whatsoever. In which case, five is actually a little better than halfway up the scale. It would be, umm…lemme check my calculator…45% excitement. Whoops…okay, so 5/10 if you’re counting the zero would be less than half of total possible excitement. A little worse, not a little better.

Wow, I can’t add double-digit numbers and I can’t compare fractions. What comes next? Will I forget how to read analog clocks? Hmm, bad example…I was never that quick to read them in the first place (I blame the Smurfs digital watch that I had as a kid).

So anyway, I need to revise the scale, since I’m more than 45% excited. Let’s just stick with percentages, since those can’t be misconstrued. In which case, let’s say I’m about 60% excited. Yeah, that’s about right. Not too much, not too little.

There was a point to this scatterthought when I started it, but I’m not entirely sure what it was. Something retrospective and philosophical about birthdays, I think. Something about how they’re both specific and arbitrary at the same time. After all, we mark time by the passage of the Earth around the sun…how arbitrary is that?

Hey, it sounds like I rediscovered the point. Well at least I’m not going completely senile (yet).

And really, what does a birthday mean? Your body doesn’t know that it’s “one year older,” and wouldn’t care if it did know.

It’s all in your mind, dude.

I suppose this is why I start thinking that I’m a year older sometime around September. That’s the point when I feel like I’ve been around for 28 years. And who can argue with me? So what if I haven’t completed the 28th year? After all, I’ll spend most of the of the 29th year telling people that I’ve only completed 28 years, when in reality it’s 28 years and a fraction of the 29th, if you really want to get technical.

Last month I was 27 and 11/12th’s. Two weeks ago I was 27 and 50/52th’s (is 52th’s a word?). Yesterday I was 27 and 364/365ths (cuz it’s not a leap year).

Assuming I was born around 5:30am in the morning (I seem to recall that number being thrown around when I was younger), I am–as I write this–27 and, umm (gets his calculator) 17/8760th’s. Give or take a few.

Of course, we say “28” because it’s easier. And really, does anyone need to know right down to the exact fraction? Nah. So we understand that when someone says they’re 28, they mean that they’ve completed 28 years and they’re working their way through year 29.

Unless they’re one of those people who is uncomfortable with aging, in which case they’re really 32.

Russ