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24 April 2005

Thoughts on turning 30

Today is my 30th birthday.

I’m not sure exactly how I feel about this.  I don’t really feel
any older than I did yesterday or a couple of months ago, and I don’t
really feel much older than when I was 27 or 28, to be honest.

(My mom, however, called today, and she said that she doesn’t feel like
she can have a kid who’s thirty.  And I actually sort of remember
when she turned thirty.  But she remembered it was a Thursday, and
about 10.30 in the morning, and it was kind of cloudy, but she saw a
little bit of sun through the window in the delivery room.)

Perhaps I’m supposed to start thinking about mortality or something
like that, and I guess I am in some way, in that I have now had three
decades of time to do something with life, and so one might want to
have something to point at.  One of the first thoughts that comes
to me is, “God, I am STILL in school.”  I’ve only been out of
school for a year or two since I turned five.

Here’s the thing.  One of the themes that’s come up a bit in
talking with my spiritual director is the need most of us (all of us?)
have to “do” something, “make” something, “impact” something.  I
certainly feel this need, in almost all the areas of my life —
physical, mental, professional, spiritual.  What do I have to show
for my efforts?  What output comes from my input?

And that’s the trap of our world, whether because of the particular
logic of the capitalist ethos, some innate human nature, or whatever
explanation you like.  But perhaps we are most fully ourselves,
most fully human, most fulfilled when we simply are.

Thirty’s a big marker only if I’m looking to validate or put a stamp of
accomplishment on my life so far.  But maybe thirty just is if I
just am.

Maybe more on this later.

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9 Responses to “Thoughts on turning 30”

  1. j Says:

    Happy, happy birthday, Nate, and many more!

  2. Jim Sr Says:

    Happy Birthday. I had one like that about 30 years ago, and my sons are now 37 and 35.

    You ask a hard question of yourself, because (I think) you will never know how much contribution is “enough.” It’s like the engineering question we ask ourselves, “How will we know when we’re done?”.

    By becoming a life-long-learner, you’ve taken the first step toward understanding that there’s always more to understand. If you can touch lives and get others to understand that very basic premise, you’ll be single-handedly responsible for raising the IQ of the planet a few points!

    And perhaps you’ll be wise enough to believe that doing something that you don’t love for the sake of accomplishment is the worst form of masochism around. It’s not until you’ve discovered something about which you can be enthusiastic that you can be “successful.”

    God be with you as you continue the search.

  3. miw Says:

    Well well, happy birthday dear sir. God help us all, you might have to grow up sometime soon ;o) atb

  4. pp Says:

    Thirty? You seem so old.
    Being a late birthday everyone got their drivers license before me, turned twenty one, became a teenager etc. while I waited.
    Now I bask in the glow of my last few months of my twenties and mock lot in life.
    Happy Birthday.

  5. Daniel W Says:

    Happy Birthday Mr Paxton.
    Thirty? You must go and see this new German film about youthful idealism, “The Edukators” (in Germany “Die Fetten Jahre”). You have achieved loads so far – on whatever stage or scale.
    I am feeling ultra-idealistic after attending an election-rally here in Cambridge.

    Daniel W.

  6. Albert Says:

    Is life instrumental? Perhaps the question is not how much you have achieved and changed the world, but more how much you have grown. Some people have sold many widgets and added more than their per capita weight to the GDP of the economy, yet perhaps they haven’t grown as much in every other way.

  7. Matt Says:

    Happy Birthday, Nate.

    Someone told me recently that FORTY is the NEW THIRTY. So, there you are: you’ve got an entire decade before you have to start feeling “older”.

  8. andrew Says:

    happiest of days to you my good, and beautiful friend.

    take care with it. they fragile, these days.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you for the info!