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My 20,000-day Birthday



This is my 20,000 day birthday. I try to come to terms with the idea that I will never catch up with all the things I should have done by now if I was a normal adult. I have been waiting for this day for more than two months now, at least since day 19,930, 20,000 day birthday. But wait, is it? For the last two, three years, I track this number in my journal. Back then I read a blog from an infographics guy. He was doing that and it looked cool. So I started doing it too. Lina hates it. She freaks out. I don't understand why.


Weird and scary and I hate it.


Does the number seem large when compared to years? It is large, but you get used to it quickly. Does it nudge you to Google how many days a typical life has? Yes, absolutely. It's just 29,000. If you get rid of work, sleep, and childhood, the typical life has 18 years of potentially-conscious "me time". Those thoughts are terrifying, but I love them. They're the thoughts you want to have while journaling. They help you reflect and make sure you use your time wisely. 20,000 days, that's a lot. My newborn is approaching his first birthday. In the beginning we had weeks appointments with the pediatrician. Then he quietly graduated to month appointments, six months, nine months. In the nine month appointment a few days ago, the pediatrician looked at the baby's age and gave us a new set of orders. Give him what you eat! Croissants, microwave pizza, and diet salads from Sweet Green?


Her ideas are based on what the average New Yorker baby should do at each age. But the average baby is a Frankenstein, bad statistics idea that makes every real baby wrong and in need of fixing. The older the baby, the more complex and multi-dimensional and inevitably less and less averages it becomes. The "curse of dimensionality", as real statisticians say. By the time a baby gets 20,000 days old, it can only be non-average. Wait, am I 20,000 days old? I wanted to be accurate, so I punched my birthday to a website and I found out that... Okay, let's take things from the beginning. On the 1st of January, 2023, right after all the "Happy New Year", I misread the four as nine. Although right now the numbers seem pretty clear to me. For the last four months, I thought I was 5,000 days. That's almost 14 years older. If I can be so much off and not notice, why does this number matter?


The number of days alive doesn't make me feel anything. Do you care that on day 5,840 you can get a driving license and on day 7,665 you can drink legally? No. Culturally we only have expectations for years. It's 2023 and how many times you rotated around the sun still defines our laws, culture and traditions. Days alive meaningless, years meaningful. Or are they? Trees For trees years are meaningful. If you cut a tree, you see growth rings that result from seasons. You count them and you know exactly how old the tree is. Rules mean exceptions. In the tropics, trees grow all year long and the rings don't show their age. For me, growth happens at odd moments. In moments of stress and hardship. To be on the wire is life, the rest is waiting. If I were a tree, you would see an endless childhood, then a growth ring entering university.


Then many happy years, including my first career, which all ended a bit after the 2008 financial crisis. Then Poland, Budapest, Sevilla, and the ring of 2013, quitting the digital nomad lifestyle. Then London till Brexit 2017. Then USA and my 2021 "quit corporate" ring. And here I am now. Count my growth rings if you want to know how old I am. Five rings, that's my age. Some rings coincide with political and financial cycles. Others are personal. Many years go by with small, invisible, everyday changes. Eventually stress piles up. As I try to live with outdated rules, important aspects of my life seem like a dead end. And then a dramatic breakthrough. I often move to another country. I reinvent myself, realigning with who I am and the environment around me. And the next cycle begins. Nowadays, there is so much diversity. Age seems irrelevant, both for babies and adults. Should we drop age-related expectations? Should we spend time and ask questions and figure out who someone is before we rush to fix them with advice or try to put them in a box using our razor-sharp judgment and half-assed statistics? Years are as meaningless as counting days since our birth. Five rings, that's my age.



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