in life

A reflection on connection (on the occasion of my 50th birthday)

Today I turn 50. A milestone birthday and, pre-pandemic, one that many friends celebrated with blowout parties. For the longest time, I thought I’d do something similarly big, almost like a wedding party, with dozens of guests, food, drinks, music, games, everything.

I am not. There are many reasons, but high among them—what if I gave a big party and no one came?

I think this goes beyond typical host anxiety or sad sack “nobody likes me.” For a while now, I’ve witnessed that people just aren’t showing up for one another. I attend outings organized by friends, and am dispirited by the low turnout.

Yes, the pandemic is still out there, but considering the myriad mitigations (vaccines, boosters, masking, outside events, rapid tests, ventilation), it’s a weaker and weaker justification.

I do think the pandemic has triggered a kind of insular, isolationist, solipsism in many. In developing resourcefulness in making the most of our time alone, we’ve created comforting cocoons that we don’t want to leave.

Showing up for our friends takes time and effort, and it seems many have made the calculation that such work is not worth the outcome.

Showing up for our friends also might mean shifting our schedules. People calendar their lives with busy-ness, activities to stave off boredom or uncertainty. This scheduling ends up taking precedence over spontaneous or one-off connections with friends.

I recognize this isn’t always the case. People have very real commitments, and shouldn’t be expected to cater to the whims of others. But I suspect that if folks took time to reflect, their time could be freer than they realize.

Anyway, Instead of putting all my eggs into a blowout party basket, I’m leaning into this fractured reality. I’m celebrating my 50th year in ‘slow motion,’ with a series of hangouts, dates, excursions that may last a month, or even more. Shit, if it all works out, this may become a template for living the rest of my life.