Happy Birthday To Me: Lessons From Getting Older

One of my only regrets as I’m getting older is beginning to work for other people at the age of 16. In fact, I had two or three jobs from the time I started to work. I quit sports, relationships, and anything else that stood between me and making more money. I didn’t see the value in time spent if it didn’t have a paycheck on the other side. Whether it was another hourly gig at 16 or side hustle at 26, I did whatever it took to just get more cash in the bank. 

I didn’t realize it was costing me a lot more than I ever made until I saw a life of dedication to hard work cost someone their dreams. 

One of the reasons I decided to take this van life trip is because I watched someone work harder than anyone I know and never get to enjoy their life after getting older. She was in the military for 20 years and saved up so many vacation days that she retired six months early. Within two years, she was 100% disabled. Couldn’t even pull the sheets up to cover herself at night. 

There would be no trips. No beautiful views. No passport stamps. Just getting older. All my life I listened to this person talk about their retirement dreams and the elaborate vacations they would take. The adventures they wouldn’t miss once they could miss work. 

After getting older, just a few years into this time they waited for their entire life, all of that explorer energy was focused on finding doctors who could figure out what went wrong. The time they saved for dreams was spent taking care of symptoms. Their physical well-being crumbled and mental health followed quickly after. Suicide threats were common conversation. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to live when I can’t even move my hands,” she would say. (If you’re feeling this low, this resource can help.)

It made me indescribably sad to say I didn’t know how to argue for the value of their life when they lost the thing we take for granted the most: our health. I don’t know how I could live without my hands, especially as a writer. The idea of it was so shocking to my system that it sent me on a search for an adventure. I wasn’t going to wait until my body couldn’t keep up with the beat to take a break. 

Last year I made a wish to start living and this year I will get to celebrate my 21st year of work and the first year actually living my life. In this living, I learned a lesson I think we all know but need to be reminded of, and it’s this: 

You are not guaranteed the blessing of getting older or being healthy. Those things are a gift that can be taken from us at any time. The only thing you know you’ll get is today. 

So get the coffee. Book the trip. Take your PTO. Make a big wish, then make it come true. 


Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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