Our age. Our lives, our family, our changes. At work, at home, metaphorically. In every part of every life, we’re presented with milestones, a series of points on our timeline. They are reasons to celebrate. They are trying and difficult. They are the marks we use to measure ourselves, like notches on a ruler.
Sometimes, they fill us with anxiety. Like milestone birthdays. On Friday, I celebrated my 30th birthday, an age that arrived with a basket full of mortality. What had I done with my life? Where was I going? Had I done enough? You know – the questions you ask when faced with the passage of time.
It’s just one of those numbers. Thirty. No longer twenties. No longer close to college, no longer searching for reason. It’s daunting. Even if it’s a bullshit notion, it’s daunting all the same.
I’ve never felt old before – out of place, sometimes, but not old. And I still don’t. The moment has passed, and nothing feels different. But for a few weeks, 30 seemed very real. Very frightening.
Other times, milestones fill us with pride. This is the 1,000th post on Black Marks on Wood Pulp. What started as a time waster, never designed for posterity, has become an institution in my life. It’s my outlet, the big brown tree my muse, my identity on the Internet and, in many cases, in real life.
It’s not the reach or frequency I’m proud of, as I rarely have either, but it’s the longevity. That I’ve been able to keep a hobby for longer than the life of a typical reality television series. That I’ve chosen to do something that, ultimately, has shaped what I’ve become, both in my profession and in how I communicate.
What’s surprising to me is that, with both of these milestones, there’s a noticeable lack of change. The milestone comes racing in, showing off, a 150th anniversary here, a 22-game winning streak there, and there’s a sense of exclusivity, that we’re going to be treated to something mindshaking, boggling the rest of us with its pure, unbridled sense of being.
But that rarely happens. After a few days, the milestone has passed. Its legend continues to grow, but typically nothing has changed. Things continue just as they always have, a spot on a much longer timeline, a drip on an otherwise clear field of white.
Milestones are propped up as definitive events, but are rarely anything aside from a round number or a change in terminology. They’re marks, checkpoints along life’s road, but after they’ve passed, for the most part, you put the car back in drive and keep on going.
So 30 is nothing to be afraid of. And 1,000 is still impressive, but not transformative. Just as 40 and 2,000 will be. And 50. And 3,000. They’re goals. But they’re not final goals. And they sure as hell aren’t reasons to change direction.