January can be cruel. It’s the start of a new year, it’s cold, and our custom of making resolutions to be better versions of ourselves can sometimes invite unwelcome introspection into who we are and the way we live our lives. For me, January is especially cruel because it’s also the month of my birthday, a double whammy of a reminder that the clock is ticking and I’m not getting any younger.
To be clear, I’m not afraid of getting older. Getting older only means one thing: that we didn’t die. That’s good, right? Well, yes and no. I believe that we’re the product of our experiences, and with each year we gain new experiences that enable us to grow and change. We’re kind of like trees – each year adds a ring around the person we used to be, making us taller and stronger than we were the previous year.
That’s all fine and well for trees, but what if we don’t want that extra ring because we were happy being the way we were? What I mean is, with each year many of us find ourselves changing in subtle ways. For example, I have become more mindful of bedtime and the number of hours I sleep; I wear sensible shoes; I look for potential husbands instead of flings (a quest made all the more difficult by my insistence to wear comfortable shoes at all times). These are not things I thought about when I was 20.
I like the person I am and I’ve worked hard to become this version of myself. Even so, I sometimes miss the carefree days of youth, when everything seemed like it would last forever and the world was full of second and third chances. I felt invincible. As we get older, reality begins to set in and has a way of subtly encouraging us to play it safe and make responsible decisions for our future, to focus on needs more than wants.
The problem with this outlook is that it can fix our focus on the life we want to live instead of the life we are living. Recently I was talking to some friends about my upcoming birthday. Jokes were made (I’m a year closer to being a daddy), and celebrations were planned. I lamented that I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) celebrate the way I wanted to because I have to be a responsible adult. Sighing, I said I missed kissing boys just because they were cute and dancing until last call on work nights.
Then my friend said something that made my frumpy, responsible heart beat a little faster. He said, “It’s not a bucket; it’s a well.” What he meant is that sometimes we look at our lives like we have limited opportunities and once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. Once the bucket is empty, it can’t be refilled. Instead, we should look at our lives like a well, full of endless possibilities that will never run dry.
Being young may be a bucket, but feeling young is a well. I will never not be excited when I see a puppy, and I love that part of myself because it connects me to every “me” I’ve ever been, despite how many rings I’ve grown. So, this is my new resolution. Every time I stop myself from doing what I want to do, I’ll remember that my life is not a bucket of finite and limited possibilities; it’s a well that only gets deeper and fuller with each passing year. The well reminds me that I always have options, which means I also have the power to choose what I want for myself. And that’s a wonderful thing.
As we move into the new year and your own birthday approaches, remember that you have more options than you realize. So, in 2019, ditch the bucket and get yourself a well.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.