One week ago today, I turned 27. That number is interesting. There are a lot of takes on what it means. It’s the age our parents’ generation probably claims to be, complete with a sly grin and practiced chuckle, to the ID-checking waitress at dinner. It’s, as one friend semi-jokingly told me, “the last birthday before you’re basically 30.”
It’s another reminder that high school was nearly a decade ago, so it’s time to grow up and find a nice lady and settle down and start a sturdy job and earn a promotion at that job and buy a quaint home in suburbia and pop out a few Dorn-lets and start gardening for fun and join the PTA and let your 30’s and 40’s drift away in a haze of happy family fun.
But it’s also just a number. It’s literally a two and a seven squished together to mean something that’s been around longer; an age to mark the amount of times a calendar has told you it’s been 365 days. To give our days structure.
I’d rather not.
Look, I’ve never been a big birthday guy. I love having a reason to celebrate with my friends and family (those who have helped me celebrate the last few years might dispel the notion that I don’t care about birthdays, but I swear Tahoe 2014 was just planned as a normal weekend that happened to coincide with January 29th!), and I always apprecaite the birthday wishes.
But as far as I’m concerned, the day I was born should be a celebration of Mama and Papa Dorn (the former, especially, since I allegedly put her through the seventh circle of labor hell – trust me, she tells the story every year).
“How does it feel to be 27?”
Everyone gets that question for every new number, and my answer usually goes: *shrug* “pretty much the same.” Because it’s true! Obviously people mature physically, mentally and emotionally as they get older. That’s just basic biology. But it’s the experiences we put ourselves through on a daily basis that really make us “older.”
For example, the reason the end of my 27th year felt so different from the end of my 26th is that I’d completed a four-continent, 20-somethin-country, six-month trip last August. I felt like an older, wiser, better person because of it. Still do.
I didn’t feel older because it was January 29th – I felt older because the places I’d been, people I’d met and experiences I’d had made me grow. I’m more content with my 27.02 years now that I feel like I’ve done something so valuable and memorable.
If I had stayed on a 40-hour work schedule and paid my rent and taken BART and stashed away money in my 401K and done all the things I was supposed to be doing, I think I’d just feel like I was physically, legally and financially older. Those are good things to do, they just don’t take priority over actually living.
I think to validate my existence, I need to do things I am passionate about. Travel. Write. Socialize. Make a difference. Ditching everything and following my heart to Australia and beyond was the best decision I’ve ever made, and I crammed more into those six months than I could ever dream of doing on a regular working schedule.
I want to see every inch of this glorious planet. I want to smile and make other people smile. I want to look back whenever I’m at the end and say, with supreme confidence, that I had a great time. That I learned as much as I could. Made as many personal connections as possible. Made a total and complete effort to be kind and do good. Made a positive mark on the world.
So, I’m planning on continuing to travel in order to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live. Like I said, 27 is just a number. And even though it’s technically my age, it’s not the most important number to me.
The most important number is ONE: One life, one chance, taken one day at a time. One world full of faces and places to impact, experience and explore.
Eventually I’ll decide that buying a home, getting married, raising kids, etc. is my next fun adventure, because eventually I’ll want those challenges. But for now, over the 27 turns I’ve lived in this ONE life, I’m happy with the progress.
For now, I’m going to keep taking it slow. For now, I’m going to keep exploring. For now, I’m “27” and growing older every adventure.