On the evening of my 32nd birthday my family did the embarrassing thing of getting the waiter at Buck’s Fishing and Camping to bring out a cake with candles. At this age I just smile politely and don’t squirm as much when the waiter sings along loudly. I took a big inhale and my mind raced with possible wishes: I wish….that Aaron doesn’t leave me for a girl who’s less gassy… that my father took better care of himself and my mom….that I got a new job, hard money, in a place not too far from DC and not too cold….That seemed like a good one. But just as I was about to let the air gush from my cheeks a different wish snuck in at the last minute, just as the doors were closing.

I want to be a trail runner. 

I used to think birthday wishes were stupid. I certainly think the old adage that if you tell someone your wish it won’t come true is inane. But for one splitting moment each year, you get to clear out all the swirling clutter — professionally, socially, in your family — and identify your highest priority in a single simple wish. With my head spinning all year about where my life is going to take me (my remaining time as an NIH post-doc is rapidly dwindling, creating much uncertainty about the future — you know I’m totally losing it when I apply to a job in Florida of all places), I can’t think of a better birthday present than to have my head clear for one splitting moment about what matters most to me.


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