Our lives are full of magic numbers.
At 13 you can be a Bar Mitzvah, a Jewish man. You turn 15 and become a real “teenager.” Maybe mom will let you go into the city with your friends on the subway. You reach 16 and that means you can get a learner’s permit. Totally cool because at 17, you get the car and that means freedom!
Special numbers full of power and mystical significance. Turn 18 so you can join the military. You can vote and make your voice heard, legally an adult.
You can start drinking, if that’s been one of your goals because now, you’re 21! You are free to sign binding contracts, enter into serious financial agreements. Your parents aren’t responsible if you screw it up (whoa, that’s a bit scary).
Next stop 30. It has no force of law, but it’s a serious number. Everyone feels it as a major turning point. We aren’t kids now. Time to pick a mate, a career, a home. Maybe start a family. You aren’t getting any younger, you know. Might be time to undo the starts you made in your 20s when you were too young to know better … maybe switch your career, divorce that first mate, get an upgraded model. Out with the old, in with the … different? Not necessarily new, though. Because we don’t become different people. The magic does not transform us, though we may think it will.
At 40, nothing is new. We know we are far from old, but we can no longer claim the exemption of youth. We own our failures and our successes. The lapses and poor choices are no one else’s problem. Time to fix mistakes, trade up to better homes, jobs … better … friends? Wives? Husbands?
Maybe things aren’t going well. We are sliding backward. This is when we realize, with a sinking feeling, we aren’t going to get the better job, bigger pay check. And there’s that subtle (or not so subtle) sense our bodies are changing. Little warning signs. Bald patches, graying hair, wrinkles around the eyes.
Death starts to take the older generation and picks off a friend or two. A little too close to home, definitely too close for comfort. Don’t look now, but your world has boundaries. You can not do anything you set your mind to. There are limits and you begin to recognize them. Reluctantly, even kicking and screaming, but there’s no avoiding it.
The kids are growing up. Your daughter, your niece, the kid next door is 16, a woman, not a little girl. Your son’s voice changed. He’s rebuilding your old car. Is that a tattoo on his shoulder? When did that happen?
We create our own magic numbers: “When I earn $50,000 a year, I’ll know I’m on the way.” From where, to where?
“$100,000 is the breakthrough! That’s when I’ll know I’ve made it.” What’s “it?”
It’s all magic numbers. And somewhere, along the path, you know although some people make it, many don’t. You may be part of either set … and you can switch from one to the other, though the older you get, the more likely you are to be moving down, not up. Now you need personal goals, human, not number driven .A loving family, a grandchild to cuddle. A marriage that is the center of your world, a mate you want with you for the rest of your life.
You’re 50. So suddenly, where did the years fly? You need to feel good about yourself. More than that, you need to feel like you have, are, and will make a difference in the world. You don’t need to revolutionize anything in particular, but you want to have touched others. Most of us want to feel that we’ve done some good.
There’s no magic number that says “life has meaning.” What you’ve earned, how much you’ve sold doesn’t matter. Numbers don’t cut it. The flapping noise you hear are chickens coming home to roost. You can, if you choose, count them. Maybe that’s the magic number you’ve been seeking all this time.
In the world of blogging, we have many milestones. Awards from fellow bloggers, recognition by others, gaining followers among people whose work we admire. Forming friendships with followers … making the virtual world more real.
No one forgets the first time you have a really “big” day and stare in astonishment as the numbers keep going up. There are markers all along the path by which we can choose to measure success … or lack thereof. Sometimes it’s hard to know which is which.
But what is success? Is it numbers? Numbers do count; you can’t completely ignore them. Even the weird flukes that have nothing to do with our core strengths bring visitors to our site, some of whom will like what they see and keep coming back for more. We all need a bit of luck to lift us up, but when the luck runs out, you need substance, quality and persistence. You need to be interesting and maybe even (dare I say it?) talented.
If numbers are all that matter to you … well, to each his own. I can’t imagine popularity alone would be satisfying, but everyone is different.
Now, I’ve crossed the 50,000 mark. That’s impressive. It feels less like an achievement, more like a road marker, a point on the map. It tells me how far I’ve come, but not how far I can or will go. It’s not an end.
Blogging has been a roller coaster ride. Luck, timing and coincidence have played a role in my getting to this point as much as skill.
The meaning of my numbers is changing. Instead of lots of single hits, I’m seeing people who come and read multiple posts. They come. They stay a while. More become followers than previously. These may be people who genuinely like my work and will come back again and again. That’s meaningful. Smaller numbers, but more solid.
So here I am.
Sometime during the wee hours last night, my hit count passed 50,000.
I’ve put up more than 900 posts, about 60% of them mine, the others reblogs. Of the 60%, half are photographs with little or no text, the rest written, researched, pulled out of memory and often including a piece of my soul.
It’s good to hit the big 50,000. It’s a nice round number. And now, I’ll be moving along.