When I was in school there was one history factoid that was always easy for me to remember: the date when Christopher Columbus set sail.
And no, not because of the catchy little rhyme all the teachers taught. You know: “On Aug. 3, 1492 / Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” (though that did help).
That date was always easy to remember because it also happened to be my birthday.
So, this past Monday marked 523 years since Columbus first embarked on his world-changing journey – and, on a less impactful note, 24 years since I was born.
Thinking in those terms, I feel pretty young – which is a good thing, because lately I’ve just been thinking, “Wow, I’m almost a quarter of a century old.”
We set a lot of store in birthdays. We celebrate them with cake and presents; we use them to predict the future (as a Leo, I’m supposed to be a crossroads this month – according to Yahoo, at least); and we use them to mark milestones: 13, 16, 18, and 21 are all important ages in our culture, for instance.
So yes, birthdays are important. But what’s even more important is our perception of them. Because in many ways perception is everything.
Take any typical day. Oftentimes, people say: I hate mornings. Now I have to go work for eight hours. Or, they could say: I am so lucky that I have a job.
It’s almost second nature for our culture to take things for granted. We are so blessed in so many ways, but I suppose it’s often easier to offer complaints rather than praise.
Of course, when you’re feeling frustrated, positivity is a chore. When you’re stuck in a rut, an upbeat attitude is nothing but a joke.
And I’m guilty, too, of taking optimism, crumpling it up, and tossing it away.
But I can also think of several times when I’ve chosen not to do that. When I have counted to 10, or taken a deep breath, or simply stepped away for a moment, and decided to give optimism a try.
And, somehow, a bad day can then become good. I can think of several such instances, including one that happened a few summers ago.
My family and I decided to take a little day-trip. After looking through a road map (the kind that highlights different tourist spots), we’d decided to travel northward to a little homestead and farm museum.
Simple enough, right? Wrong.
Turns out, finding this supposed homestead meant traveling confusing roads that ended in several wrong turns.
But, we eventually found it – only to realize that this “homestead” was just a few pathetic houses in an overgrown field. The gate leading to it was locked – and looked as though it hadn’t been unlocked in quite a long time.
We briefly debated having our own National Lampoon vacation: climbing over the sad fence and having our trip just like the Griswolds did at Wally World.
But, we decided getting arrested might put a damper on the day. Instead, we circled back and had a nice meal at Bob Evans while we decided what else we could possibly do.
We could have just gone home and bemoaned our disastrous trip. Or we could have released our frustration in an argument that ended with hurt feelings and a miserable car ride.
Or we could have really hit the “bad day lottery” and done both.
Instead, we decided to head a bit out of our way and go to Sauder Village – a family favorite that we hadn’t been to in a few years. We weren’t able to have a full day there, but we stayed as long as we could, enjoying the sunshine and walking through the historical village.
So yes, our perception is everything: Is something a disaster, or an opportunity? Is our typical day boring, or comfortable?
Is our birthday just a mark of getting older, or a reason to celebrate?
It’s up to us, really. And, in this world of taking things for granted, I think that might be what we overlook the most.
So yes, with another birthday come and gone, I don’t think I’ll feel sad that I’m inching closer to that quarter of a century mark (and then to the big 3-0). Instead, I’ll follow Mark Twain’s philosophy:
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Reach Sarah Allen at 937-393-3456, ext. 1680, or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU