HELP LINE: Remember: Age is just a number

TODAY IS MY birthday (thank you, thank you very much), and I must confess that I hadn’t anticipated that turning 24 would be such a non-event.

Well, OK, it was worth a try, but it really is my birthday. And it really is a non-event.

It used to be an event. Or, at least, a socially acceptable excuse for a party.

All manner of happy things would happen, and I would be on the receiving end of all of the recognition (and loot) that a Leo so richly and inherently deserves.

It was a milestone. An achievement. I wasn’t dead.

You do have to agree that there’s something to be said for not being dead, and I’m happy to report that I’m still not.

With puberty (and, to a large extent, parties) now a blur in the rearview mirror, it’s kind of interesting that we measure our presence on the planet with numbers: “I showed up here 24 years ago.”

Or whatever number is applicable or plausible.

I suppose that’s handy, in a way, because as soon as we attach a number, we can attach a label: You’re a 20-something, a boomer, a millennial, middle-aged, a teenager or a senior, etc.

And we immediately know all kinds of things about you.

We’ve learned all of the popular, demographic “truths” that accompany all of those various levels and labels, and can safely leap to conclusions about who you are, what you think, what you value, what you care about (what you don’t care about), what you’re likely to do, what you’re not likely to do and what level of technology you’re probably comfortable with.

That is seriously convenient.

And, apparently, seriously helpful to people who are trying to sell something to your particular demographic.

How … enlightening.

How … annoying.

What if we didn’t “count”?

I mean, what if we didn’t tally the days, nights, weeks, months and years since we showed up?

What if the anniversary of that spectacular, historically relevant day was just another day?

What if nobody knew how long we’d been here?

What if I didn’t know how long I’d been here because I wasn’t counting?

Then you know what today would be?

Right: Aug. 13.

And you know who I would be?

Right: Mark.

Just Mark.

And everyone else would be forced to discover what I do, think, feel and value (and buy) because there wouldn’t be 928 studies conclusively and confidently articulating who I am.

Which, interestingly, is exactly what I have to do.

Well, sure, every darned day.

I have to figure out and decide who I want to be and what I choose to believe and what I choose to value and what I choose to do with this new opportunity that we call “today.”

And the fact is that it’s no different Aug. 13 than it is Feb. 14 or than it was Oct. 31. I still have to figure it out.

I still have to … decide.

Or I suppose I could simply subscribe to the norms, parameters and characteristics associated with my particular demographic and start acting the way I’m expected to act — I’m supposed to act — and a lot of that angst would probably go away, right?

I mean, the script has already been written, so why not just “act right” and confirm the statistics?

Well, I don’t suppose that there’s anything wrong with that, except for one little thing: What if they’re wrong?

You know, the ever-present “they” who decipher mega-trends and spell out sociological realities and, by default, design the “boxes” that we’re supposed to live in.

What if they’re wrong?

What if that’s not what I do today?

What if today, that’s not the way I behave or think or feel or conduct my business or set my goals?

Or treat people or insist upon being treated?

What if that’s not the label that fits me today?

Then I suppose “they” would have to keep up with me, instead of me having to keep up with “them,” and the only expectation-laden label that could be applied would be “Mark.”

Just Mark.

Then I think today would be a truly magnificent day.

Which, of course, it is, because today is my birthday.


Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information &Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing

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