This is a picture of my daughter Sydney with Big Bear. He was a gift to me when I was born. Evidently, my parents must have found it cute or amusing that I had a bear much larger than myself when I was a baby. Regardless, I grew to love the big guy. I felt like he had been “born” on the same day I had. He was my stuffed animal of choice throughout my childhood. He slept in my bed with me, and later just kept watch over my room while I was at school. When I went off to college, he came with me. Ditto for medical school. At some point, though, he moved into storage.
About a month ago, Sydney was in the basement and found him in a closet. She made me sew up some of his bare spots, and she began to sleep with him. She often brings him down to breakfast in the morning, and he sits at one of the chairs at the kitchen table. He looks older, but he’s still in pretty good shape. It’s somewhat spooky. He’s pretty much the oldest thing I own. He and I are, after all, the exact same age.
I bring this up because today we both turned 40.
The most surprising thing about getting older is realizing that – no matter how you look – you don’t feel that much different as time goes on. I remember when I thought 30 sounded ancient, and I was sure I’d notice it by now. At least, I’d feel “older”. But there just really isn’t that much difference in the way I feel inside now versus years ago. On top of that, I’m in better shape than I was a decade ago. I exercise more. I eat more healthily, and I’m thinner than almost any time I can remember.
I realize how amazingly lucky I am. I have a wonderful marriage, and a wife whom I adore. I have three children who continue to amaze and delight me. I don’t just love them; I really like them. There’s nowhere I’d rather be on a Saturday afternoon than playing games with them. I live in a house that I love, I’m part of a community I treasure, and I have friends who are truly irreplaceable. I have a career that is immensely satisfying. I respect and admire my co-workers and my colleagues. I get to do work that I enjoy while also feeling like I’m making a difference.
Some days, though, it’s this that is the most rewarding; it’s writing.
When I was a kid, English was my least favorite subject (sorry, Dr. Erskine!). When I was in college, I specifically chose classes with exams over those that might require papers. All of this, of course, is rendered most ironic by my life today. These days, it’s the writing that I love the most. These days, it often feels like the most valuable thing I do. I don’t know when I made the transition, but I think it was when I began blogging.
To celebrate my birthday, my wife and I are going on vacation this week with some friends. I’m going to take some time off. No Internet. No email. No blogging. I’ll be online today and tomorrow, but come Wednesday morning, I’m checking out for a bit. I’ll be back Sunday, but anything anyone sends me before then will be ignored until I return. I’m totally serious.
Before that, though, I wanted to take the time today to thank all of you. Your readership and participation is one of the things I treasure most. This blog has come to mean a great deal to me, not just because it’s led to a great friendship with Austin, but because it’s allowed me to engage in policy on such a larger scale than I otherwise would have been able. It’s raised the level of my game in so many ways. It’s hard to express how much it means to me. I’m deeply grateful for the privilege of being here, and for all of you for joining me. It’s a phenomenal gift, and I wanted you all to know how much I appreciate it.