Technetium: Reflections On My 43rd Birthday

Today I’m forty-three.

Funny how time creeps up on you in more than one way. When you’re young and have absolutely no appreciation of time and the unfolding roll of years ahead of you seems limitless, you feel like you don’t need to think of time, simply because there’s so much more of it.

But life is not the same when you’re in your forties. You gain, shall we say, a certain perspective now that with likely probability half of your time on earth had passed and you can look forward to the next half.

You can sit down and look back at your own life journey, but it does feel kind of strange. Mainly because you seem to have lived a number of lives in which you were a number of different people, different versions of you.

The child peers his head in flashes in my mind. I remember my father and mother, my grandma, my other grandma, a train ride, a white jeep, a bicycle, a taxi ride at night, bits and pieces. The young boy remembers more details, my school days, how I taught myself never to be afraid of dogs, my siblings, and those many chapters that followed in fast succession. The teenager who was a total basket case is there. The high school kid who had a miserable existence and suicidal thoughts. The college student who was going through hell every single day. The graduate who was lost and had all doors shut in his face. They’re all in there somewhere. All of them left a few shards of memory, a few pieces of code, and the perspective that I enjoy today is mainly due to experiencing life through their eyes.

But these personalities are not me anymore. It all feels so distant; alien. The cells I was born with are no more. The human body replaces all of its cells completely in 7 years. This means that now I inhabit my 6th body.

And this new body I’m using as my spaceship through the universe has a different mind inside, a little more polished in part, a little more scarred in other parts, and punching a lot of notches in its belt.

When I look at the past, there’s no baggage. I’ve taught myself to let go of those. The person that is me right now is only trying to live in the present. And when this person attempts to time travel in imagination, he only goes to the future where things are much much better and where all of his hard work has born fruit.

I grew up hearing about something called the mid-life crisis. When men mainly, but sometimes also women, go through a phase in life where they wreak havoc everywhere in a fit of temporary insanity that lasts a few years before they regain composure. I think maybe it’s because of some realization that they’re not in their twenties anymore and they long to the days of their youth.

I don’t think I belong in that club and for a few reasons. One, I was completely miserable back then and I do not wish to live in such circumstances ever again and I would not like to revisit them. Two, I didn’t like myself at all back then and was always pondering ways to end my life. Three, I’ve moved on many years ago with the help of a wonderful writing exercise developed by Dr. Jordan Peterson called the self-authoring program that I highly recommend to anyone who wants to bury their past and exorcise their own ghosts.

When I thought of writing this post, I simply googled the number 43, and what immediately captured my attention was this rare element definition.

Technetium is a chemical element with the symbol Tc and atomic number 43. It is the lightest element whose isotopes are all radioactive. Nearly all available technetium is produced as a synthetic element. Naturally occurring technetium is a spontaneous fission product in uranium ore and thorium ore, the most common source, or the product of neutron capture in molybdenum ores.”

That’s so cool, I thought. Well, excuse me but I come from a family of engineers, and my scientific background and my nerdy side always flare up on me. But anyway, it says that nearly all available technetium is produced synthetically, and from a certain perspective, I feel like the person writing these words right now is also synthetic, or rather self-made.

But then again, we’re all self-made, aren’t we?

I remember vividly a time when I used to think about that thing I read once that’s kept eating up at me. I was very upset because I couldn’t make sense of it. It said something along the lines of your life and what happens to you and whatever good or bad that’s in it is YOUR responsibility, and having a better life is also your responsibility. It said that you can’t blame anyone else but yourself for your own troubles.

Now that was just infuriating. What do you mean that I can’t blame anybody, of course, I can blame somebody, actually, I can blame everybody, I’m the victim here. I can think of a trillion things that aren’t my fault. That’s what I thought back then. A lot of things were the fault of my parents, or my grandma, or my siblings, or the teachers and kids at school, or it was our house, our neighborhood, our city, the government, or just simply God. Yes, it was mainly God’s fault. So, how could you tell me that it’s a pearl of ageless wisdom not to blame anyone else for my troubles when there are obviously all of these culprits! It just didn’t make any sense to me back then.

Then slowly but surely, the veils came off my eyes as the years rolled by and I was able to see better the more I learned about what life is. It’s a matter of perspective. It’s your attitude. It’s how you look at the whole thing and what you make of it that will determine how you can take advantage of all the opportunities that surround you at all times.

Taking ownership of your own life and shedding away the victim shroud is so liberating, and endlessly empowering. Yes, your environment and the people in it can have an adverse effect on you and they can color you with whatever shade they want, place whatever label on you that they want, categorize and classify you in whichever way they like, and dismiss you also in whatever manner they decide. But It’s all done WITH YOUR PERMISSION. Because you just took what you were given and accepted it without protest, without presenting a valid argument why you deserve better.

Sitting in a corner and moping with your ‘woe is me’ victim mentality and “taking it” IS your problem. All you have to do to change your situation is to wake up, wash your face, look in the mirror, decide that you love yourself and that you appreciate yourself and that you are the only person who can determine your own value, and then decide to claim your place in the world based on your own self-appraised high value. You start to say No. You start to ask for other options, and when they’re not presented to you, you figure out those options on your own, and then soon enough you are creating your own options, blazing your own path, and leading others to a better place.

Leaders don’t ask permission and don’t look to anyone for validation, they’re self-driven, self-motivated, self-reliant, and they get their strength from knowing that they are able to live their lives on their own terms. They know they can trust themselves to make the right decision, face up to their mistakes without pride, prejudice, or self-deception, learning from them as they plow through the thickets and obstacles of fortune.

You are pulling the line, you, yourself, and no one else. The moment you clench your fist on that rope and you face the unknown and start pulling that is the day you find your agency nestled in your courage.

You have to cede to the fact that you’ll never have all the answers, but you should spend your life looking for them. I believe it is Zen wisdom that the purpose of life is to find your purpose. It’s the human being in you that is only going through life wielding their consciousness as their sword and shield as they wade their way through uncertainty.

We come to this world all alone, we live, we meet people, we do things, we make mistakes, we leave a faint mark on the world that will be remembered by those who loved us and those whose lives we’ve touched in a good way, and then we move along, all alone. This is a good journey, we should cherish and savor all of its moments.

This is why all you have to do is focus on your present moment. Focus on living this very moment in the best way you know how. Eat well, sleep well, love your family, learn something new every day and teach others the things you know, be kind, be helpful, stand for something, have integrity, be strong, aware, and creative. Know that everything that is hard for you now is going to get easier the more you do it.

Happy birthday.



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