27 June, 2021

My Fortieth Birthday

I turn 40 in a few days.

I'm proud of all that I've accomplished so far in life. I believe that I've done exceptionally well in terms of my career. I've achieved success in my hobbies. I've made a few good close friends. My love life is excellent. I am confident in my personal application of ethics.

But, also I have experienced failure. I exercise occasionally, but not nearly as often as I should. I have family that loves me, but I don't see them as often as I'd prefer. I sleep way more than is ideal, due to my addiction to lucid dreaming. Perhaps my most difficult project is reliably performing everyday tasks, whether they're household or medical tasks.

Overall, I am happy. Turning 40 years old doesn't feel all that significant a marker, but it does make me think of a few specific things:

My best friend growing up, whose father died in his thirties. My friend told me confidently that he felt sure that he'd also die before 40, and so wanted to explore life well before then.

My late-twenties sister, who, a few years back, expressed amazement at my age. Not seeing her for a decade meant that changes we saw in each other occurred all at once.

One of the players on my esports team, who is not yet sixteen years old. Working so closely every week with someone so young is quite worthwhile, but the way they talk and the topics that come up do continually remind me of the age differential.

I guess that's why I'm writing up a blog post for my upcoming fortieth birthday. I want to remind myself of the good, and warn myself of the bad.

First, the good:

I'm extraordinarily proud of my career. The work I've done for effective altruism has been, I believe, quite invaluable. Helping to influence the creation of Animal Charity Evaluators and then heading communications there for its first two formative years was powerfully influential to the field of effective animal advocacy overall. Serving on the ACE Board today gives me immense pride. And, just this very week, I've applied to EA Funds for a grant to start a new organization, where I hope to create even more good -- potentially a huge amount.

I relish my hobbies. The recently created genre of rational fiction so far has so few entrants that I can reliably say that I've read every good text in the genre. When it comes to good television, I make it a point to experience as much of it as I can. My house is filled with the board games that I enjoy the most. I love that I live in the burgeoning era of video games, where I get to experience such creative and exciting stories created by the industry. I even get to feel that sense of camaraderie and success with the esports team that I captain.

My friends are few, but they are strong connections. The nonprofit I am starting is cofounded by one of my strongest friends. The esports team I play on has another of my best friends on it. I have several other friends in the various gaming communities I'm a part of, as well as many other friends who I have met in the polyamorous community.

Romance, for me, was a hard road, but I'm finally in a place that I am confident and comfortable with. I am polyamorous, asexual, heteroromantic, and sapioromantic, which makes for a strange combination. Thankfully, my lifelong partner supports me and does quite a bit to help me thrive.

When it comes to metaethics, I am a moral antirealist. Yet I want strongly for the world to be best that it can be, and I have a good understanding of what I would prefer that to consist of. I've dedicated my life to the field of effective altruism, and I feel that I've achieved a significant amount of good so far.

And the bad:

I live a mostly sedentary life. Exercise, for me, consists of walking around Little Seneca Creek, which I haven't done as much of during covid. I have intentions of being more active, but so far akrasia has made me unable to follow through on that.

Family, for me, has always been a failure point. Ever since the day my mother had police point a gun at me, I have been unwilling to ever see her again. I have hispanic and indigenous ancestry; the cop was white in the Deep South of Alabama. I am just not okay with the level of risk that my mother so callously put me through. My father's side of the family is much better, but for some reason I just am not that good at keeping as close contact with them as I should. I love my siblings; I want desperately to change my habits so I can spend more time with them. But, again: akrasia prevents me.

Sleep is the constant consonant note in my life. I have aphantasia in my waking life, but I dream lucidly with mental imagery. Before I knew what these terms even meant, I had no idea that others have mental imagery in their waking life, so, to me, it always struck me as strange that my dreams could be so very much more vivid than my waking life. I wasted so very much time prioritizing lucid dreaming over my real life. Today, I know better, but I'm still addicted to dreaming. I spend way more than I'd like to admit on sleep, far more than the 8 hours/day that most people spend.

Then there is the thing that I am worst at: everyday tasks. Doing dishes. Taking out the trash. Cleaning up rooms. Worst of all, because I've gone for my entire life without using or taking medication (minimizing even over-the-counter pain relief), the medical issues that started up in 2020 which have me now taking pills every day is causing a great deal of consternation. Remembering to take them seems like it should be an easy task, but instead it is a daily struggle.

Listing these out like this feels therapeutic. I have much to be happy about in the present -- and much for me to work on in the present. Overall, it is a good life that I lead.

But... I can't help but notice that I've focused only on the things in the present. There is no mention of my past, mostly because I have very little pride in my past. I started out life terribly. But, perhaps in part due to my aphantasia, I feel unconnected to those early decisions. I focus instead on the successes and low points of my life in the present. This is not a bad way to think about things, I think.

And so I feel good. Life is good. The flaws are things I can deal with. Once covid stops being such a concern, I can deal better with everyday tasks by hiring a cleaning service. Holding myself to a schedule should help with my sleep addiction. And the family thing will solve itself because, once my vaccination takes hold, I will be invited far more often to family events.

Later this week, I will turn 40 years old. And I am both happy and satisfied with where I am today and the trajectory I have for tomorrow.