It’s amazing the things cancer has made me less afraid of: Bugs. Needles. Turning 40.
I have a vivid memory of my Uncle Lenn turning 40. I remember the pictures of the black balloons and the coffin shaped birthday cake. It was a weird thing for an 11 year old to see. Like ok, turning 40 means you’re almost dead. Great. Got it. Let’s file that away for a therapist to deal with down the road.
I was thinking about this because yesterday was June 29, which means I’m now less than a month away from my 39th birthday. Yay me!
I’ve never really liked birthdays. There’s way too much pressure on them. It’s like New Year’s Eve or your Wedding Day. Like no matter what you think should happen, you're just going to end up drunk and confused about life.
You could make the case that 39 is the worst birthday of all. Like it’s the last call for your youth. Like the bartender should be shouting over the music, “Any last minute stupid things you want to do, do them now. At 40, all excuses stop!”
I used to be so worried about birthdays. About getting older. I used to look at my life/career check list to see if I was far enough along to justify another year being tacked on to my life. Like time had any concern about how many plays I’d written or money I had or accolades I had received. Time doesn’t care one bit. Maybe we shouldn’t either.
I did a lot of things in my 30s. Quit drinking. Go divorced. Left New York. Fell in love a few times. Moved to Charleston. Moved to Atlanta. Became a playwright. Became a professor. Quit smoking. Got cancer. Went to Europe twice. Avoided having a kid (which I think officially makes me the Michael Jordan of pulling out... AKA the GOAT).
I’m not rich, yet.
I’m not famous, yet.
But I am happy. Thanks to cancer, that seems more important than ever.
So bring on 39. And 40. And any more you might have. I’ll gladly take all of them.