Today Is My Birthday

By Brian • July 19, 2016

Today is my birthday. It's a special day that I feel lucky to share with you, for today I am 70 years old.

About a month ago I asked Danielle and Nancy if I could do the MoMo on my birthday. I didn't know then what I would say, but I did know that I wanted to share my age in a very public way. Little did I suspect then that I would be sharing not only with my co-workers on the 29 th floor, but with the entire Region! Be careful of what you wish for!

Revealing our age is not something that most people, myself included, feel comfortable doing. We wouldn't think of asking any friend, associate or customer how old they are. Why is it then that it is perfectly acceptable to ask a child how old she or he is? What changes between age 7 and 70? When and why does our age turn from something to be proudly claimed to a topic to be avoided?

I believe it happens when a child no longer states their age as a simple fact, as my youngest son Gavin used to do with mathematical precision, as in "I am 6 and 5/12 years old", and instead begins to focus on being seen as older. As parents we contribute to this mind shift by remarks such as "Act your age" or "You're older than that." I confess that I said such things to my own children. The child gets the message that age brings status, power and autonomy. We celebrate milestone events, turning 13, 16, Then sometime after age 21 birthday celebrations lose their allure. No longer is getting older seen as a badge of distinction. Instead we become concerned that we are getting old. The very word "old" has negative connotations. What images comes to mind when you hear "old age", "old folk's home", "old guard", or "out with the old, in with the new?" Who wants to be known as being old? This is a value- charged word that even extends to food. What retailer would think of advertising "old cheese" or "old beef"? Instead it is "aged". Nor is this distinction a modern, American invention. After all, Jesus told his disciples not to put new wine in old wineskins.

What becomes destructive and self-limiting is when this fear about being old triggers an inner voice that says, "you're too old", which gradually morphs into "I'm too old". I have heard this inner voice many The first time I remember is when I was 30. I had spent six years in college followed by five years in the Navy. As a result I was 30 when I began my banking career. My first job was as an appraisal trainer with Equitable Life here in Seattle. As part of my training program I got to go back to the home office in New York and meet my fellow trainees from across the nation. I was by far the oldest in this group, and I remember thinking, "I'm too old to be starting out in this profession."

Fast forward almost 20 years. I was 49, married with two children, ages 13 and 8, when my wife announced that she was expecting our third child. She was 48, so this event was completely unanticipated. When I told friends and associates the news, the typical response I got was "I'm glad it's you and not me." I recall thinking, "I'm too old to be a father again."

When I was 60, I heard this inner voice again. My wife and I had been separated for six years and had concluded that our marriage couldn't be saved. The divorce was hard, as divorces always are. We both felt poorer in so many ways, financially, socially, emotionally. And that same inner voice said, "I'm too Then in 2008, at age 62, I lost my job for the first time in my banking career. I worked for WaMu, and it closed down my business line, in the process laying everyone off, including me. I again heard that voice saying "I'm too old to find another job as good as the one I've lost."

I am here today to tell you that while that same inner voice still whispers occasionally in my ear, I no Although I've always been in finance, at one time I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Please indulge me in imagining that I realized that ambition and am in court defending myself against the claim that I am Your honor, I am falsely and wrongly accused of being too old. Consider the overwhelming evidence to Exhibit A: Was I too old to start a banking career? I submit to you 40 years of continuous work in banking, including the past 5 ½ with the World's Greatest Bank!

Exhibit B: Gavin, that unexpected child, is almost 21, going to community college, serving his country in the Army Reserve, and making me proud to be his father and friend.

Exhibit C: Rosemary, the love of my life, and I celebrated our 9 th wedding anniversary this year. And my former wife Jane will attend my 70 th birthday party.

Exhibit D: Being laid off gave me the impetus and opportunity to take the risk and return to sales, which always fascinated but also scared me. John Swanson and Danielle were willing to take a chance on me, for which I'll always be grateful. I am so fortunate to have my dream job."

In conclusion, your honor, I submit that I was never too old, not then, not now. In fact the plaintiff's claim is totally without merit. It is a false premise to imply that being old is anything other than a statement of fact. I request that all remarks about being too old be stricken from the records, and replaced with the statement that "I was and am old enough". At age 30 I was old enough to start my career. At age 49 I was old enough to become a father once again. At age 60 I was old enough to give love a second chance. At age 62 I was old enough to take the risk to do something I'd always wanted to And now, as I turn 70, I'm old enough to be an example for others. Your honor, I am filing a class action lawsuit on behalf of all who have heard that false and insidious voice, "you're too old", which I daresay includes everyone listening today, for they have been deprived of the opportunity to embrace their age, whatever it may be, as being enough.

May each of us remember that we are old enough to overcome any adversity, to rise to any challenge, to realize any dream, to live fully in the moment. May we no longer focus on age as being anything other than the gift it is. May we always be reminded of Mary Oliver's question, which is ultimately the most important question, "What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?"

With that, your honor, I rest my case.


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