Birthday Reflection with a Serene Look at the Future

I do not know about you, yet my birthday means a time for reflection and a summary of all I have learned since the last one. I prefer to avoid bringing focus to my birthday and dislike when it becomes the center of attention. Simply put, I am grateful for another trip around the sun. I don’t need nor want a grand celebration or anything of the sort. Instead, I enjoy spending my day in tranquility, reflecting on my achievements and letdowns since the last one, identifying areas for improvement, releasing unnecessary burdens, redirecting energy to envisioning my hopes and wishes, and focusing my attention and efforts on them.

Does it sound boring to spend the day like that? Not to me. Perhaps because I am an “older” Gen X who has lived witnessing remarkable world and personal events throughout her lifetime – from the worldwide stock market crash in the late 80s, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Challenger Disaster, the Lockerbie tragedy, the AIDS virus, the Three Mile Island meltdown, terrorism at the Munich Olympics (just to mention a few), to our parents divorcing and thus not a serene childhood, starting working early, and becoming a parent to my parent: an accelerated course in self-reliance and a good dose of skepticism and cynicism related to all things, good and bad. I learned to be independent, resourceful, practical, flexible, and adaptable. 

My generation certainly had the first access to personal computers, and we are still technologically savvy but not tech-dependent – and proud of it. Boomers and Gen Z get most of the attention nowadays, leaving Gen X out of the equation, akin to a blip in the timeframe in between. There is always plenty of material for conversation among us. Diverging from the preceding and following generations, Gen X does not care that its role or accomplishments are overlooked or ignored – it is also my position. We are chill, though many think we are disgruntled. We do not care how we come across; we know who we are, which is enough and perfectly okay. We are respectful and “street-smart,” and pulling the wool over our eyes is not as easy as people assume. Setting and enforcing boundaries is a concept we learned growing up. We may have failed occasionally, but we are wiser for it.

I grew up with punk rock, heavy metal, and grunge as well as synthpop and disco, not to mention rappers like Tupac and Eminem; Italian artists like Gianna Nannini, Vasco Rossi, and Alice; German artists like Kraftwerk, Nena, and Accept. And so many others! Most of those genres and related artists, old and new, are with me to this day. My musical inspiration and formation are varied but go back to my early to mid-20s. Music has always been a massive part of my life, and it is the reason I could and can navigate through anything with a tune in my ears, DJ-ing or playing an instrument. It is the only constant in my life, sometimes more than less, yet never without.

I have had to face a few things that may differ from the typical connotations of Gen X. I lived through racism, discrimination, unfair treatment, exclusion, and “second citizenry” challenges, to mention a few. Despite all the events dotting my upbringing and growth from childhood onwards, I managed (sometimes aided by an abundance of swearing) never to give up or become the people who made (or tried to make) my life thorny. It would be a lie to say that I never felt aggravated or wished to give tit for tat. I am human, after all, perfectly imperfect. I take pride in maintaining a kind, open, and optimistic attitude and refrain from reacting with negativity or retaliation to anything or anyone. Doing so would be useless, thoughtless, contrary to my nature, and not to mention entirely unnecessary.

The last year has been ups and downs, the latter more than the former – not a sad complaint; it’s life: to be faced and move on with dignity and purpose. The US economy experienced a high inflation peak not seen since the 80s; Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in as the first black woman in the US Supreme Court, and we sweltered through a record-breaking heatwave not seen in over a hundred years, along with all sorts of devastating atmospheric events across the globe, monkeypox became a public health emergency. At the same time, COVID numbers remained grim, Queen Elizabeth II died, foreign and domestic politics became muddier and more insulting than ever, the Doomsday clock reset 90 seconds until midnight, Vinyl records outsold CDs in the US for the first time since 1987, Finland joined NATO, and Germany ended the use of nuclear power plants. In the last few weeks, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency (though it is still considered a significant threat), and King Charles III was coronated.

Speaking of significant events relating to human rights, SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) overturned Roe v. Wade, and civil rights protests erupted in Iran in protesting morality laws targeting women; the Taliban banned women’s higher education, the deadly attack on LGBTQ at Club Q in Colorado Springs happened, Brittney Griner was released in Russia, gender equality is “300 years away” and “vanishing before our eyes” because of, among other reasons, maternal mortality and early marriage, according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The American Library Association said 2022 had the highest number of calls to censor library books in the US in over 20 years, with 2,571 titles affected, with LGBTQ+ books most requested. Texas again strove hard (and still does) to lead the Against Women’s and Human Rights hit parade, justifying its state legislature efforts with anything except human decency.

This past year has been dotted with all sorts of good and not-so-good things on a personal level. I barely crocheted, which I miss and intend to catch up on in the following months, limitations notwithstanding. I was less socially active than in previous years. I focused more than usual on music, and most of the year concentrated entirely there. It was gratifying and frustrating, challenging and comfortable. I want to take the good feelings into a new dimension that will be more reserved and, because of it, ever more meaningful. The physical consequences of the car accident are still “alive and well.” Though frustrating, they have become background noise, like the sound of a good air conditioner or a clean ceiling fan at high speed: noticeable but not overpowering.

I am grateful for all the learning opportunities and moments that turned into memories this past year provided. I learned many lessons, some new and some dusted off, and the latter acted as reminders. Some people taught me what to do, and some taught me what not to do and how not to be: both were and are equally essential teachings. It has been a year of perplexity, reflection, joy, and misery; it was a typical year in the lifecycle of an average human — nothing to write home about but everything to learn from. I am determined to dedicate my time to the things and people that prompt contentment and add value — and less to none to that do not.

I am focusing on healing and thriving – as I, at long last, finally can. A significant victory barely whispered but deeply felt, is now the spark for yearned-for peace and serenity, aligning with self-confidence and the certainty that I will overcome whatever the future will set in my path with dignity and self-love. It has been a long time coming, yet I have no remorse or regret decisively lighting up the “no access, by invitation only” sign at my door, distancing myself from anything and anyone that is not conducive to my well-being. There is a bit of melancholy and grieving – you know what I mean. Yet, I found myself and am relieved to have the courage to redirect my energy to prioritize my mental, emotional, and physical self-care. Happy Birthday to me!