We’re all aware of the fact that life can be reduced to a series of what-if scenarios and dissatisfaction. Plenty of people spend their days that way. But those of us who are lucky enough to be influenced and charmed by others and their insatiable encouragement, have 40th birthday parties.
Booze is mandatory. Pizza is never a bad idea. And space to socialize is best advised for everyone’s comfort. While all the logistics were carefully considered and necessary purchases were made well in advance, space turned out to be the unexpected issue.
In the spirit of welcoming everyone—humans and canines—the park was our original destination. The green grass of Washington Square was perfectly suited for the festivities. But then the rain came.
We didn’t know what was in store until the last minute. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until we stepped out on the sidewalk—with bags and backpacks full of party-in-the-park necessities—that we discovered our fate. Watching people rush by with umbrellas in their hands, I cursed each drop as they collected on the windows and hoods of the cars parked along the street.
It was the time to pivot, as folks in the tech industry like to say. So, pivot we did. Actually, to be fair, it was more like a U-turn as we went back into our apartment to prepare our 400-square foot, one bedroom abode for an undetermined number of guests.
As the buzzer began to send electrical signals from the gate to the third floor, a small crowd began to form. Slightly frustrated at first, I was suddenly struck by the realization that the small crowd was comprised of some of my favorite people on earth, the small space was filled with thought-provoking conversation and there was plenty of pizza to go around (there was even a glutton-free option).
Who needs space? Who needs sunshine? San Francisco is supposed to rainy and cold. City life is supposed to force people to overcome small spaces with dirty stairwells and pigeon problems. The whole event started to feel like a bit like a movie sequence. Wine, beer, dogs and adults all cross pollinating, socializing and making the most of a rainy Saturday afternoon in North Beach.
I leaned against the plaster wall and took it all in. As people churned among one another, all I could do was smile. Smile like a dork. Smile like the world is OK. Smile…and crack open the bourbon.
If there were a Parisian vacation experience that could fulfill all expectations and stereotypes, I do believe we accomplished exactly that. And we did it in the “off season.”
We studied Notre Dame from every angle and walked the Seine among hoards or tourists and locals alike. We sat among smokers and politely pointed our way through foreign menus and dry erase boards. We zoomed in and out and kissed in the long shadow of the Eiffel Tower. We had one of those trips that many only read about and wonder.
We conquered low-key fancy. We crossed the ocean and immersed ourselves in a completely different culture for less than what it would have cost to travel halfway across the country. It was cold, but I barely noticed.
One word of advice? Go.
I’ve never been too fussy about age. I haven’t consistently seen that assigning numbers to people has ever led to very consistent results. So, as my 40th looms, I’ve invested far more time in planning a small celebration than considering the significance of creeping “over the hill” as the merchandise at the local party goods store likes to put it.
Then I nearly slipped and fell getting into the shower.
I tried to convince myself it was the bathroom’s fault for being outdated, but the mishap forced me to take a fresh look at my elderly future. Standing there completely naked with a slightly stubbed toe stirred up distant memories of my grandparents’ bathrooms—where the floors of their tubs were lined with small, flower-shaped traction stickers. As a kid, their purpose was a mystery. I thought they were there for decoration, or possibly to cover up a rust spot in the cast iron. But today, more than ever before, I know exactly what they were meant to do. And I may need a set for my birthday.
The night is beautiful.
The dog is curled into a ball and cozy. Traffic is calm and the 39 bus is empty as usual. I washed the sheets today and there’s a lovely lady in my nightly nest. I see there’s fog rolling in over the Golden Gate and I consider the possibility that this is all like a movie I saw once.
A movie I probably cursed and called far-fetched. Now the credits roll and I sink into my San Francisco sleep.
A few weeks back I started a new job that’s shrouded in confidentiality agreements and requires a badge to come and go. While there’s some middle-aged appeal to taking on secret-agent status, most of my recent daily adventures are not exactly mine to share.
All proprietary details aside, I will say that there’s nothing like onboarding at a new gig to stir things up. The beauty of being the new guy means there’s no routine to abide by—you’re free reevaluate and reestablish how you do your thing. What exactly does it take to be a good employee? What, if anything, should I be doing for my community as a result of making a living wage? Is there some magical equation that can solve the work-life balance conundrum?
The only problem is that I’m short on revelations and epiphanies. So far, the only conclusion I’ve come up with is to worry less. Somewhere between my ever-growing resume and the endless quest for the perfect place to live, I guess I’ve come to terms with the fact that adulthood is a wonderful mess of unpredictable occurrences, coincidence and a responsibility to to those around you to simply be cool. I’m going to give that a try today and see how it goes. You know that old saying? Once the badge is scanned, anything can happen? Here goes.