Morbid or Motivational? My Birthday Wish.

“Morbid or motivational? It is a fine line.”

This month I turned 46. I spent my birthday on a plane returning from a week-long family vacation in Florida packed with ocean views and family time. While some celebrate another glorious trip around the sun, my thoughts tend to be a bit more morbid. This annual date is bittersweet for me. A date filled with reflection both backwards and forwards with the end always being the same – our time here is limited. A more finitude approach to this celebration.

I often credit losing my mom at 18 as a wake-up call to how precious life is, but that far from stopped me to squandering much of my 20s away living my best life alternating between boyfriends, bars, school, and work chasing any and all extrinsic rewards. Things changed when I walked away from my career at just 27 to start over in northern Wisconsin as a PR hack. I distinctly remember sitting in the hot tub at the Ashland Super 8 alone on my birthday knowing something in me had changed. At the time, I thought it was the transition of journalist to public relations – from the light side to the dark side.

Nearly twenty-years later, I now understand I had things backwards. I was in fact leaving behind a pursuit of extrinsic motivators to instead look inward. For me, that meant moving to rural Wisconsin and working a predictable schedule. To having time for the first time since my mom died, to pause and process the person I was becoming and why it no longer served me.

I’m still processing. But, that’s the great thing about evolving as a human. Each day is an opportunity redefine our goal posts – our milestone markers that’ll ultimately tell the story of our lives. What better way to celebrate our birth, then by playing out the story to the end. Morbid or motivational? It is a fine line.

Our culture braces Puritan Pride – this idea of do more, be more, set more goals, optimize, produce, produce, produce. This environment combined with our inherent desire to connect drives out the people pleaser, even in those of us who don’t like people. It is a dangerous combination that at 46, I’m finally starting to understand.

Sure, I still check myself regularly and ponder what comes next. To define what goal am I striving for and how to get there. But this is followed with a different sort of checking myself. The one that starts with what matters and how do I optimize contentment. How do I schedule what I once thought was selfish – things like downtime and pedicures and leisurely lunches and morning reading first.

The latter of these questions are worth exploring any day, but certainly on one’s birthday. The day the Universe said, you get one precious life and it starts today.

For those who don’t know me, I have a bit of an obsession with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Not the wrestler, actor, or entrepreneur – but rather his motivational moments where he reminds us nobody is showing up for us. One day or day one he often says, while acknowledging he certainly didn’t create that sentiment but rather just lives it.

Again, morbid or motivational? We all know how our story ends. Death and taxes, right. Why not make it count, on whatever scorecard matters to you, at whatever pace brings you joy.

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