Color photo of the author at nearly forty-eight years old, showing his torso clothed in a McRib t-shirt and the package of a McRib sandwich he's about to eat
The author about to enjoy one of his favorite meals.

begin by finishing last year’s birthday essay by stating up front: I’m still bad at follow-through and finishing things. But I think I’m getting better.

Everything is in the bagel.

I’m not well-read enough to know if this is a universal concept, but as I get older I feel like everything is accelerating. Perhaps it’s the knowledge in middle age that there is more time behind me in this world than there is ahead of me, so it all gets compressed. There’s less time to learn about things, much less time to act on things. More things feel important, but I have less energy and attention to do anything.

One of the most profound realizations I’ve had in recent years is the idea that everything intersects and everything is on a spectrum. There’s a lot more gray in the world than most of us want to admit, because that makes everything much more difficult to categorize, contextualize, and understand. The desire to see things as “this” or “that” rather than “this and that and the other thing and…” is powerful. It makes life easier if we don’t have to consider how the struggles of other people intersect with our yellow brick road through the haunted forest. Or even how slightly more bumpy it is on the right side of the path where they are, when all the bricks are smooth and clean on our side. We’re all struggling, and our struggles are not all the same, but they do all intersect and where they intersect is where we have to exercise the most important tool I think we have in our humanity: kindness.

Like any good foot soldiers in the crusade of capitalism, I consume a lot of media. No movie, no TV show, no book (so far) has effected me more in the past year than Everything Everywhere All At Once, a masterpiece of a film that embraces the chaos of life and tries to wring meaning out of meaninglessness. Yes, life is chaos. It’s a struggle for everyone, and it’s rarely truly enjoyable or easy for anyone. But in the midst of all the chaos and pain, if we can just find a way to be kind to each other, we might just reach a place where their challenges become our challenges and our challenges become their challenges and we all work together to embrace the small islands of happiness we can find.

There’s mostly chaos, but everything is in the bagel, even the good things. Let’s be kind to each other and elevate the good things.

Not finished yet

So yeah, I was going to work on setting goals, finishing things, etc. and maybe I did and maybe I didn’t do that. Life is a roller coaster, and we don’t always know where the track is going to lead us. I can say with certainty, that even with all the challenges life has thrown my way in the last year, I think I’ve enjoyed it more. I’ve done my best to exercise kindness and patience, to maintain my own energy reserves so that I can expend it in support of others when it’s needed. I’ve pared back on some things that don’t bring me joy, and leaned into the things that do. There’s a lot of emphasis in our culture on achieving and reaching some pinnacle of success. I’m finding that this kind of path just doesn’t work for me. I think success for me looks more like just spending time with the people I care about, and finding more people I care about, then spending time with them, too. As always, it’s a work in progress. In the meantime, I’ll just be happy over here doing laundry and taxes.

Color photo of a forty-eight-year-old white male with a balding head of gray hair and unkempt beard from the shoulders up, wearing a gray hoodie and glasses, squinting into the sun with a slightly mischievous grin on his face
The author looking much more mischievous than he actually is. As far as you know.

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