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October is my birth month, and it’s given me pause to consider how grateful I am for all the experiences I have had these past 73 years. I share this love letter with you, so you too may write your story and a love letter to yourselves.

The other week, when a wonderful colleague of mine called to ask me about treatment placement for a 72-year-old woman with a myriad of issues, he wanted to know if I knew of any centers that cater to older people. His tone implied a specific type of place, one that to me sounded a lot like “nursing home.”

The conversation struck a chord, because on October 18th of this year,Iturn 73. I am the same age as the woman he was calling to inquire after, but I don’t see myself as “nursing home” old. After all, I am a boomer and we think we will live forever.

I bristled for a moment, because dear reader, my plumes were definitely ruffled, and then I asked my colleague a few questions. Was this woman active or sedentary? Did she play sports, work out, have hobbies, or work? How was her physical and mental health? What was her day-to-day life like? How did she like to be challenged and engaged?

Over the course of our conversation, my well-meaning colleague realized that 72 is just a number. Not all people who wear this particular number are “old.” It reminded both of us that when thinking about treatment, one has to take into manyconsiderations, not just age.

The conversation got me thinking about how we perceive age. How we tend to box one another, and label each other. Which is why I decided to write a birthday letter (as I said, mine is just around the corner) to myself, and to you – whatever age you are.

Dear Friend,

As you celebrate the turn of another year around the sun, I hope this year is good for you. I am sure you have many stories, dreams, and aspirations. I hope you won’t hesitate to share them with me here, or with someone else. I hope you know you matter.

I have a few simple wishes for you I’d like to share:

May you continue to have good health and emotional joy.

May you be grateful for every day and every thing.

May you enjoy watching your family grow and thrive.

May you be present in each moment in both good times and bad.

May you laugh till tears of joy fill your soul.

May you listen as you have never listened before.

May you box, spin, walk, swim or do something active that you love, so your body grins from the endorphins.

May you continue your craft, and stay ever open to learning.

May you continue to contribute to the field of work that inspires you.

May you work to your heart’s content, while gently challenging yourself.

May you be a good friend, a trusted wife or husband or partner, mother or father, daughter or son, grandmother or grandfather.

May you find joy in the flowers that bloom and stop to smell them.

May you comfort the downtrodden and help all rise up.

May you embrace your fine lines as wisdom adorning your face.

May you let your encounters paint a new portrait of compassionate understanding about others.

May you be kind to yourself and others.

May each day be a new beginning, and each deep breath full of gratitude.

May you soak in the natural wonders of your day with great curiosity.

May you be of service to others in their time of need, and open to receiving help in yours.

I hope you always remember to take each day as a gift. To celebrate every new wrinkle gained, because another year lived is another badge earned. Be proud of that badge.

And if you (or I) ever do need to go somewhere for treatment in our twinkling golden years, I promise you can start at the Sunset Marquis, where the doormen are your friends, nightingales sing songs of healing, and the noise of the city will challenge your soul.

Happy birthday, dear reader, whatever age you are.

Louise Stanger is a speaker, educator, licensed clinician, social worker, certified daring way facilitator and interventionist who uses an invitational intervention approach to work with complicated mental health, substance abuse, chronic pain and process addiction clients.