Every year, I write a post for my birthday. I talk about the things I’ve accomplished in the past year, what I hope to do in the next, and generally use the time as a chance to get some weight off my chest or some ideas out of my head.

This one, however, wasn’t supposed to happen.

That’s not a joke or a flippant comment. I really, truly did not believe I would be alive on my 40th birthday. As recently as two weeks ago I was still somewhat unsure whether I would wake up this morning. With my depression, my lack of income, and the generally declining state of things in my life over the past few years, I spent a lot of time wondering how (not "if" or "when"; I already knew the answers to those) I should end it.

The intermittent and cryptic posts on here in 2021 and 2022 were part of a countdown that started in my head almost a decade ago and would have ended last Friday. And, if things had turned out differently, I would have ended then, too.

I obviously didn’t. Part of me is glad, but a much smaller portion wonders why. I don’t have am actual job, or any legitimate hope of getting one in the near future. I don’t have any visible path forward for the life I want to live. I remain in an occupied country, where I live as a persecuted minority and an effective second-class citizen.

At some point, anyone rational will wonder, after facing such hardship and privation for so long, whether to keep going. It’s only natural. And I’ve heard plenty of so-called motivational speeches trying to urge me forward. "Find your path," they often say. Well, the simple fact is: sometimes there isn’t one. Or if there is, it’s blocked by forces beyond our control.

I’ve been a developer and an author. I’ve been a freelancer and a business owner. I’ve worked for nothing, and I’ve worked at the C-level. I’ve worn a lot of hats, sometimes too many at once. In every case, however, I’ve only ever seen work as a means to an end, a way to help me become what I really want to be. A husband, a father, and a creator.

Some people want to change the world, to leave a mark that lasts throughout history. I’d be content with something much smaller, something that I feel too many take for granted. But what holds me back from that future is not of my own making. In every case, it’s society, or the world at large, that stops my progress.

I don’t believe in fate or destiny, or in some grand conspiracy stacked against me. In my mind, these problems are not the work of some cabal—though they may be caused by the actions of one—but simple bad luck. I was born in the wrong place, or at the wrong time, to be successful. Every little scrap of good that I’ve found in my life has been earned only through herculean levels of effort. I’m living proof that pulling yourself up by the bootstraps is an antiquated notion that no longer applies to the modern world.

Since I never planned to reach this point in my life, I don’t know what I’ll do next. I still have a few projects I’m working on: Borealic, the Godot games, Concerto, and so on. I want to get back into writing at some point, to finish On the Stellar Sea and Pitch Shift. And who knows? Maybe my old boss will finally give me the rest of my back pay, so I can start up that gaming shop I’ve been wanting for the last 5 years.

Whatever it is, I’m in uncharted territory now. The terra incognita of life, as far as I’m concerned. Whether it’s a "Here be dragons" kind of mystery place, a bounteous land of opportunity, or an "Abandon all hope, ye who enter" type, I can’t yet tell. I guess I’ll find out along the way.

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