Birthdays are weird: you are supposed to celebrate the day which is in many ways a mile marker of time spent on the planet, or alternatively time left on the planet. I have so much trouble trying to deal with dichotomy of the day, and despite my best intentions I can’t fully enjoy it. Maybe that is what it means when they say you are getting old. Sure my back hurts sometimes, losing weight is hard and the daily dosage of my medications remind me of the growing number of revolutions around the sun. But I don’t certainly feel old — I am as curious about the world as I was when I left home to charter the course of my life. I feel young enough, to bask in the newness of what culture brings, though I have to find younger friends to actually find and enjoy these new cultural experiences.
I remember using typewriters and I can’t wait for the invisible interface of Amazon Echo to be everywhere. I like film and yet can’t stop loving the wearable cameras. I find it weird that the sounds of 80s are part of the classic radio. I adore classic cars and can’t help but think: the first car I will ever own will drive itself. Earlier this morning, while waiting for the sun to rise, I realized that the delta between my youngest and eldest friend is exactly my age. It is a weird feeling of being suspended between past and the future.
I don’t know if I have done what I was put on this planet to do, but I do know I liked doing what I have done so far. I thought being older meant you had more to say, more to reach and yet I wake up every morning, a student, hoping to learn something new. I want to write a book, but can’t figure out how to write a proposal, or simply sit down and focus to write. Or what to write. I often wonder – what if I write and by the time someone reads it, it will be too late and the world would be different, much like me.
Birthdays seem to be perfect time for reflection. Yesterday wasn’t any different — I turned 49. I woke up to the news of the passing of Alex King, who was one of the key folks in helping WordPress become what it is today. His untimely death at the hands of cancer was a reminder of the finality of our existence. Alex was not a friend, but he was in my blog roll and was part of my life forever. In a way, he was more of a close friend than many who are friends on social networks. His work changed my life, so thank you Alex.
A young grasshopper once told me that it is not advisable to read news first thing in the morning. Nothing good comes of it. Wise words from a young man, but I never listen to him. So I turned to the stream to find out that a digital media company was getting acquired for hundreds of millions of dollars. The news left me wondering to myself — what if… A moment of self pity, a passing feeling of envy, and a pang of pain, was quickly replaced by joy that mother’s voice brings. Somehow mothers know when to call and make you feel like a boy, comfortable in the knowledge that everything will get better.
The day as it progressed made me realize what life is all about — friends. Steve wrote the best possible birthday note, knowing that I am at heart a chemistry nerd. It was an uplifting realization that an element in the nature and I have so much in common — including my love for a particular hue of blue. Here, is a little sample of what he wrote:
… a few birthdays are significant and today a good friend celebrates his Indium birthday. Indium: The name has nothing to do with nationality, but rather a strong indigo colored line in its spectrum. It has any number of properties that excite metallurgists and is notably used in making certain types of semiconductors, transparent electrodes for touchscreens and energy efficient coatings for glass. Technically Indium is a post-transition element – a label that may have a non-technical flavor.
Instead of spending the day galavanting — I do that a lot anyway — I spent my day with my colleagues from True at an offsite, discussing and contemplating the success and challenges startups, founders, and even investors feel in an economy without precedent.
My evening, however was spent with some of my closest friends, pizza, and old fashioned Brunellos! Liam Casey, who is only a recent entrant in my life, surprised me with a gift — a Montblanc M pen designed by Marc Newsom and a handwritten note from Newsom. I rarely am speechless, but that gift totally blew my mind.
I love Newsom and his work, so that note perhaps is the greatest gift of all time.
Matt, Hiten, and others in my small circle of those I trust know that I have turned my back on blogging and writing because for a while it felt so futile and pointless. They have all seen me struggle to come out of that dark place which comes along with deadening of the soul. Like a quark, I have gone from place to place, city to city, around the world, suspended in jetlag and excitement of new and newer, to turn my back on what I needed to today.
Friends have a good way of telling you when you need to be told. Tony Conrad, my partner at True, over lunch, pushed me to return to the arena – write, blog, and find that zen space. It is the only therapy, he said, that would work. Liam like many of my close friends has seen me struggle with words — and in gifting this pen, he too is nudging me to get back to words and end mourning.
The gift was a reminder that often I mistake material success for real success. Instead, it is success is having friends who know you so well, that you don’t have to ever feel alone. And with that realization, my countdown to 50 begins. There will be a party — big party! Thank you guys for making this a life worth living!
September 30, 2015, San Francisco!