The math doesn't match reality

Plan Your Next: Letter No. 7

I’ve never quite felt my age in a lot of ways, and I love stories of elderly people who still feel 30 years younger. It seems that our bodies will always be lying to us.

As I turn 40 next week, my natural instinct is to shrug it off and let it slide by without making it a big deal.

A few years ago, I wanted to own this effort by flipping the switch on my Facebook profile to make that simple 8-digit date, private. I started to make sure I had friends/family dates in my own calendar, as well as transitioning to text updates rather than posting on walls. It’s not perfect, and I still mix and match quite a bit.

At its most basic form, it’s simply a line of code written to execute on the date that you set in your profile. When it runs through your friend’s list, gently notifying everyone that the most significant date to that one person is finally upon us, it creates an emotional force that if you happen to see it, you’re obligated to act.

“Happy birthday!”

Whew, done.

Even though that script has no emotions of its own, it has incredible power to make us feel less about ourselves if we don’t act. In a lot of ways, programming feels like magic.

When I was turning 30, I was incredibly nervous, but I wanted to make a big deal out of it because of what it represented. I was afraid of getting older. I felt that sometimes the best way to face those feelings is to blow it up, confronting your fears. And really, not having quite figured out this thing called life, it was a way to show everyone else that you’re not afraid of what’s next.

Looking back, I’ve always felt that success would be found in the identity that I created for myself. If I didn’t succeed at being a designer, what would that mean for me? Not to mention that I hadn’t fully defined what success meant anyways.

Mark Manson writes, “to recognize that your identity—that elaborate mental framework you devised in your mind and labeled “me”—doesn’t actually exist. It is arbitrary. It is a facade. And it can be raised or dropped at will.”

I call myself a designer because I have chosen to do that with my time, but it doesn’t have to be my identity. I get that now, but for a long time, it was a crutch or a way that I could talk about myself in social situations.

I’m okay with how I have spent my time, but looking forward, it doesn’t mean that we should feel forced to fall back on the facade that we created for ourselves.

These major milestones, combined with how much weight we attribute to our career paths, are a perfect recipe for exposing our insecurities.

And even though I thought I was flying under the radar for this latest, my wife unveiled a 6-month plan to whisk my friends and me away to Palm Springs, in the middle of the desert surrounded by nothing but a pool.

But the most important lesson here is: that everyone should experience a surprise party at least once in their life.


Question for you

Does getting older make you feel more or less anxious to start something new?

This is Plan Your Next. It’s a conversation about being ready for what’s next. Well, because there is always a next. I’m Nate, designer, and conductor of this group.

If you have something to share or add, please hit reply and expect a response!