The Problem of Happy Birthdays

newyorkskylineOne of these days, I will wake up and turn 27 and it will feel like a typical day, except it’s not.  Oh right, that event occurred yesterday. You see, turning (and being) 27 causes me to reflect about life. Sure, all birthdays do that for me, but 27 is that awkward year where I am far from the party days of 21 and distant from the quarter-life crisis of 25. I’m just years from turning 30 and it’s an alarming reality-check of sorts, a reality-check riddled with empty boxes in a checklist.

  •  Did I move up on the corporate ladder? No. In fact, I went a totally different route.
  • Am I married or have a potential love interest? I wish. But alas, no. (Forever alone)
  • Do I have kids? No, thank God. But sure, I’d eventually love some.
  • Am I in great shape? I have a shape.
  • Did I accomplish anything important? Define important. I ran my first ever 5K this year and there was that one time I nearly died after jumping off a cliff in Kauai. That was my first emergency room visit.

And ever since turning 25 two years ago, I examined myself through a checklist and compare my life with that of my peers. Birthdays become less enjoyable, especially when life hasn’t quite gone as I planned it.  But those older than me are quick to remind that the unpredictability of life is life. It is what gives life both meaning and excitement. And you know what? I’m okay with that. How dangerous and foolish it is to think that any day is typical because it’s not, at least when I step back and remember my mortality.

checklist

If you’re happy and you know it

While there’s nothing wrong with celebrating and enjoying all that life has to offer, the problem with happy birthdays is I can be too focused on me and my happiness.  I forget that I’m chasing something temporary that can come quickly and leave like a tornado. When I think about happiness, I think about the time I visited New York with my family and friends. It was my first time visiting and I was a wide-eyed tourist feeling small amidst the towering buildings of the Manhattan skyline. My friend showed me around and I saw almost everything I’ve always wanted to see—the Statue of Liberty, Battery Park, Central Park (I kissed a tree there), Ground Zero, the NYSE, Rockefeller Center, and the list went on. I was happy! And it took a snafu of miscommunication, traffic, feeling abandoned, and a dying phone to ruin the rest of the day when I was nearly lost in New York with almost no way to contact the rest of my group.

And we’re no strangers to this comparison. We save money, work to get promotions (assuming to get more money), buy things we don’t need because our consumerist culture urges us to be individualistic, and then we think we’re happy. Well, until the economy tanks, job security is no longer secure, and Apple comes up with the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPhone 10 within a couple of months from each other and we find ourselves with something outdated. Our hunger to have more and to have the latest and greatest leaves us embittered and satisfied.

Your Face Will Surely Show It

Experience has taught me that when my mission in life is to make me happy, I’m left feeling unfulfilled. Of course life was never centered around me, even when others tell me that for one day (my birthday) I have a “special day” dedicated just for me.

No, I’m not looking for a day of happiness; I’m looking for a lifetime of joy. While the word “joy” comes from the Greek root word chara (“to be exceedingly glad”), joy is true contentment. And the best part is there isn’t an Apple app for that. James 1:2 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds.” And we’re given insight to why in verse 3 and 4: “…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Joy comes from persevering through life’s challenges with the help of Christ.

So yesterday, on my “special day,” I reexamined my life through the eyes of joy—the eyes of contentment.

  • Did I move up on the corporate ladder? No. God’s given me a different path (ministry anyone?)
  • Am I married or have a potential love interest? No. When I find a certain lady I’m attracted to, I’m coming after her (not in a scary stalkerish assassin kind of way, but in a Ryan Gosling a la The Notebook).
  • Do I have kids? No, and that’s okay. There are still things I want to do before I have the important responsibility of raising children
  • Am I in great shape? No. I’m doing something about it though and I’ve already lost 33lbs and haven’t found it back.
  • Did I accomplish anything important? Being involved in the lives of high school students and college students and the lives of my family and friends is important.

(New York Photo via Wiki, Checklist Photo via Forsythco)

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