>Today is my 35th birthday.
Honestly, I’ve never made a big deal over my birthday; not since I was ten, probably. Never had parties or anything like that, and only a couple of times did I even go out for drinks and dinner. In fact, the past four years or so, I’ve been on the road, far away from anywhere I lived. Even now, as I write this, I’m on the other side of the country from my apartment and everything I’ve gotten used to calling “home”.
Still, this year is a bit different for me. I’m thirty-five. Not old by any stretch of the imagination, but not the kid I still see myself as and (perhaps too often) identify with. Billy Joel once wrote, “I’m young enough to still see the passionate boy that I used to be, but I’m old enough to say I got a good look at the other side”. At this point in my life, I can finally say that I know exactly what he was talking about.
…and I can’t complain.
It’s so easy, in the course of a day or a week or even a year, to focus on everything that is wrong, or all that is difficult in life, and let that be the thing that leads you. It’s so easy to look at your life and think, “I wish I had more money, I wish I had more fame, I wish I had better things. I wish I was younger, faster, stronger”. What we always fail to tell ourselves is the opposite. I find myself all to rarely thinking, “I used to have less, I used to be worse. I’m better now”.
At thirty-five, I think I’m starting to get it.
One thing I do, every year, no matter how unimportant my birthday is to me, is spend a little time alone reflecting on the years that came before. I pour myself a glass of wine and look back over what happened to lead me to this spot that I’m in on this particular June 16th. I’m still a young man, but I often feel like I’ve lived three or four lives when I think about the different paths I chose as the years rolled by.
Six years ago, I was only a part-time comedian. I was working by day in wine sales, and I had a cozy apartment in North Jersey.
Ten years ago, I was a restaurant manager, living in Detroit, Michigan. I was also forty pounds heavier and hadn’t been onstage doing comedy for years.
Now I tour all over North America, I’ve published a book (with another due out next year), done several TV appearances, and worked my way up to headlining my own shows forty-nine weeks per year. It’s amazing in how many directions you can turn in such a short amount of time.
I don’t feel old. In fact, I can easily say that there’s a comfort in being in your thirties that I never, ever thought possible. When you’re in your twenties, thirty-five seems pretty old, and the thought of someone telling you that it’s a pretty confident place to be sounds absolutely crazy. It sounds like the delusions of a man fighting a crises as he faces mid-life fast approaching.
Be that as it may, it’s very true. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t trade this year to be twenty-five again. If I could freeze time and stay one age for my entire life, you know what age that would be?
Ten. Ten years old is the best. Don’t kid yourself into believing anything else.
But, after that, I’d likely choose any year between thirty and thirty-six. I’m a healthier man that I was ten years ago, I’m a stronger man than I was ten years ago, and–anyone will tell you–I’m much more likeable now than I was at any other age. I can feel funny without feeling obnoxious. I can feel confident without feeling arrogant. I can feel curious without feeling naive. And I can feel like I finally have a clue as to what the hell I’m talking about, at least fifty percent of the time.
So, I’m not regretting thirty-five today. Sure, I could have a lot (a whole lot) more money than I do…but I’m still working on that. I could also be huge and famous…that one’s still in the machine, too.
But I’m luckier than I give myself credit for being. I have a family that believes in me, a girlfriend who (somehow) loves me, and plenty of people who enjoy watching me do this crazy thing I’ve chosen to do with my life. In thinking that things could be better, sometimes it’s easy to forget that they could also be a hell of a lot worse.
Also, I’m told I don’t look my age and, for that, I’m truly grateful. People tell me I’m talented sometimes, too, which puts me ahead of the curve. And, unlike when I was twenty-five, I don’t think I sound like a moron and I’m not ashamed to take my shirt off in public.
See, when I was twenty-five, that kind of talk would get me labeled an “arrogant, cocky, young punk”. At thirty-five, I’m called a “narcissist”. If that’s not a true sign of aging like fine wine, I sure as hell don’t know what is.