It is my nineteenth birthday today and I’m not sure how I feel. Birthdays always bring about reflection. They are days to consider progress a and transiency, each Birthday a data point on the parabola of life. When a curve is fit to the graph, I gauge my trajectory, the parabola of my life with a hundred different independent and dependent variables. I have always presumed this useful. It seemed necessary to provide a context for daily existence. It provided meaning and incentive.
I’ve started to reconsider the purpose of judgemental reflection though. By that I mean, I’m no longer convinced of the value of deeming each data point as “good” or “bad,” or each slope of the parabola as trending either up or down. Perhaps there is an alternative means of reflection, one that does not entail striving and discontentment.
I used to fear birthdays. They bring temporality into focus where in the rest of the life remains unspoken and ignored. The number of candles on a birthday cake is not abstract, like the rest of time. You are not the same as you were a year ago and indeed your values and beliefs will likely be different at your next Birthday. You feel a stable now, but upon brief reflection it is revealed that you are not. I’ve begun to realize why I fear Birthdays; it’s in the parabola. Time with adjectives is scary. The graph of happiness in life is terrifying. Because it goes up and down it must have a maxima, which we are always pursuing and after which we must forever seek to recreate. Above all though, a life in a graph must end. This system necessarily entails striving, which carries inside it, hidden but always present, fear.
It seems an essential part of being an animal, to look toward and seek the “good” in our lives and rebuke and abandon the “bad,” but it is not the action I look to abandon so much as the judgement of the past and present. Action is essential. All life is action but judgement and desire carry fear in their footsteps. I’m beginning to reflect on the passage of time and the gradual change of life as mere development, free of adjectives
On this birthday, all that used to terrify me about aging, that I am one year closer to death, and the temporality of the self, both of those are still true. But the fear they used to entail is much diminished. There is no graph anymore my life is no longer going up and down; it is just experience.