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.


Not too long ago, I thought—even expected—that this would be the last birthday I’d have the chance to celebrate. Why bother living to see 40 if you have nothing to live for? So, at some point I decided that I wouldn’t. That, if things didn’t turn around, then I had no reason to make it to 40.

Now, I’m a year away from that milestone, beginning the last year of my 30s, and I’m cautiously optimistic that I’m turning a corner for the better. The reason I don’t have any big, fancy post for my birthday this year is because I just haven’t had time to write much of anything lately. The work never ends, against all odds. Even better that that, however, is that I’m spending the week of my 39th birthday with the woman I love.

I brought her home, and we’ll stay here, together, for a few days. Then, I’ll take her back to her home just outside Nashville, where we’ll stay the rest of the week. Together.

That’s what had been missing from my life for so long. I was always in it for me and me alone, because there wasn’t anyone else. No girlfriends, no friends at all. A family who, for the most part, was oblivious. As an agnostic (and now a technetic) I didn’t have that surety of faith so many around me could claim. No, it was just me, alone against an uncaring world.

Now, the world still doesn’t care, but she does. And that makes this a very happy birthday indeed.


So here we are again. From the number standpoint, 38 has a few things going for it. The 38th parallel is the boundary between North and South Korea. There’s a gun and a band called .38 Special. 38 is the lowest jersey number not retired in any of the 4 major American sports, which makes one wonder why. The reverse is 83, meaning that everyone born in 1983, myself included, has this as a numerologically significant year.

To write this post, I had to look back at last year’s, and it has me thinking. Specifically, I’m thinking, “I really didn’t accomplish anything in the past 12 months, did I?”

That’s how I feel. If anything, I’ve regressed in a lot of areas. The therapy I tried hasn’t helped like I hoped it would. Politics got even worse, from the massive fraud in last year’s election to the continuing violations of basic human rights and a looming economic crisis, and this combination of factors has only increased my depression and anxiety. On the family front, my cousin was killed in a car wreck a few months back, and we only recently learned that he wasn’t driving—one of his so-called friends was, a 21-year-old addict on enough drugs to make Hunter Biden jealous. To top it off, if my relationship was on the rocks last year, it’s run aground now.

The one possible bright spot is my job. I’ve had that for six months, and it’s…strange to say the least. I wake up every weekday wondering if this is the day I get fired, then often spend the afternoon listening to my boss praise me for the work I’m doing. The pride I feel at building something is almost perfectly balanced by the fear that I’m not pulling my weight, or that I’ll be exposed as the impostor I know I must be. On the plus side, I am getting paid, but I’ve been so poor for so long that I honestly have no idea what, if anything, I should be spending that money on.

The job took away most of my free writing time. That’s no great loss, as my depression meant I was barely using it to begin with. Since the beginning of this year, I’ve written about 150,000 words. Go back to 2017, and that was a month’s worth of output. I’m still hoping to do Nanowrimo (it would be my 10th in a row), but this is going to be the hardest one by far.

I still hate what I’ve become. I still don’t hold out much hope for turning things around. My 38th year of life ends, and I wonder how many more I have. This last one has been a waste in every respect. I’d gladly take it back, but I can only believe that it would turn out exactly the same. Nothing I do seems to change anything for the better.

Some people wish for material things on their birthdays. Some instead treat their wishes as prayers. All I truly want, though, is…a reason to go on, I guess. And a reason to believe I should.


(I’m writing this a day early. I hope nothing bad happens in the intervening time.)

37 is not a very interesting number. It’s prime, and that’s about all it’s got going for it. Oh, and it’s one-third of 111, which is cool, I guess.

Becoming 37 isn’t much more interesting, as far as I’m concerned. And the last 12 months have taken a lot out of me. They’ve worn me down, as anyone who dares to look through the PPC archives will attest. My depression reached new depths at numerous points over the past year. Worse, it stayed there far longer. These weren’t the two or three days of past episodes, but sometimes weeks.

For most of 2020, I felt like I was living through a waking nightmare, and I just wanted it to end. The bad dream, the year, my life…whatever worked. I wasn’t suicidal at any point, mind you. Nor was I a danger to myself or others around me, apart from the negative mentality and lifelessness that I’ve felt so often since March. But there were days as a 36-year-old where I would lie in bed and just not care what happened to me, solely because the effort it took to get up, to live in this fallen world, was too much for me to bear. I became something else, someone else.

I hate that someone.

I’ve been in therapy for about two months, though the primary phase of it ended a couple of weeks ago. It’s helped, as I’ve described in recent posts, but I know there’s a long way left to go. As I attempt to celebrate the 37th anniversary of my birth, I’m hoping for a rebirth, a return to the man I once was. Or a better man, even, one who is wiser with age, but also with the experience of knowing what it’s like to go all the way to that edge and step back.

The world is still broken. My county remains under effective lockdown indefinitely, and there’s the very real chance that, two and a half weeks hence, a man will be elected whose goal is to extend that to the entire country. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people suffer just as I have suffered, some of them pushed as far as taking the ultimate step I have refused. Cities burn in what the media calls “peaceful” protests, while those defending themselves and their liberties are labeled as murderers and extremists. 2020 is Bizarro World writ large, and it seems as though it will never end.

I don’t often talk politics on here. The subject is too demanding, too demoralizing, especially for one such as myself, someone who doesn’t take sides in the grand game of Red vs. Blue. For this birthday reflection, though, I have to look at the state of my life and see how much of it is dominated by politics, by forces beyond my control. That, more than anything, has contributed to my depression, I feel. And it has soured me on entire swaths of the political spectrum. I never fit on that to begin with; now, “a pox on both your houses” is too mild to describe my feelings.

On a more personal level, I feel like I’ve been set up to fail. This time last year, things weren’t great, but they seemed to be improving. I’d finished writing a great novel, I had others on their way, the job search was picking up, I had made friends…I was starting to get a small but perceptible feeling of positivity. Then I began to falter. My relationship with my beloved got rocky, to say the least, and mostly because of my mental health problems. Last December, I endured a sickness that, I now recognize in hindsight, was most likely caused by the Wuhan coronavirus. A month after that, my uncle passed away after a long struggle.

Then came the pandemic, which we now know to be greatly exaggerated. For seven months, a normal life has been denied to all of us outside Sweden and South Dakota. I took that harder than most, I think. At times, I felt as though everything in the world was arrayed against me, all its forces singling me out as their target. I may try to be rational, but in this case, I started wondering if I’d been cursed, if this was my punishment for stepping out of line by trying to reach for the life I wanted, rather than the miserable existence I’d been given.

Today, I still can’t definitively say that’s false. By the law of averages, I should have some positive results, right? As far as I can tell, I have one, and I can’t keep making her wait. She’s not getting any younger, either.

So, while I may have other goals for 37, they all come back to that. Getting my life back on track, taking it where it was supposed to go before the world went mad. Becoming the man I want to be, the man she deserves. Living, rather than simply existing.

“Happy” birthday. Yeah.

Addendum: I wrote this around 2PM on the 15th. A few hours later, I learned that my mother’s best friend passed away. I…think she was 60? I’m not certain, and I can’t find an obituary online yet. Strictly speaking, that doesn’t go down as yet another awful thing to happen on my birthday, but it’s more evidence in favor of an October curse.

I didn’t know her well enough, but my mom and aunt both considered her the next best thing to a sister. Despite her failing health, she stayed with my uncle in some of his final moments back in January; if nothing else, she deserves to be remembered for that.

Although I’m not as affected by her death as someone who was closer to her, hearing about it, especially on the day before my birthday, shocked me more than I expected. One of my first thoughts was relief that she hadn’t waited another day. Then, when I realized what I was saying, I felt incredibly selfish. What right do I have to ask that another human being die a day early to spare me hearing bad news on my birthday?

More than anything, that has left me troubled as I write this at 9:20 PM on the night before it posts. I’m not shedding tears for a woman I usually saw once or twice a month. They’re for me, because what kind of monster have I become?