Last Saturday was my birthday, and my body chose to christen the event with unrelenting neck pain. Whether it was how I slept or the way I tilt my head while Mercy hunting in Overwatch, my birthday gave me a taste of the problems that come with age. I remember long ago, on my 25th birthday, my boss at the time patted me on the back and bestowed a golden kernel of knowledge upon me: “It’s all downhill from here.” Cynical as it was, I knew there was truth to his words, but I hoped I would be the exception to the rule. Turns out it’s not different at all, is it Steve?

I woke up early, the band of pain between my head and body unyielding and unbearable. My psychic connection to my wife seems to be at an all time high – she woke before I uttered a sound, roused from her slumber by a dream manifestation of my voice, telling her that I needed her. I never spoke the words myself, but there she was when I needed her most. Though there was little she could do, just having her there kept my internal screaming from becoming external. I told my parents about the situation later and they shrugged. This was just another part of growing old: emotional connection at an all time high, physical condition at an all time low.

Was it really all downhill from there? Were my later plans of a fun day of debauchery in vain? I got to do literally everything I love, from gaming, to drinking, to writing, to being with my favorite person. And yet, it was all marred by this stupid thing, apparently a manifestation of the very event I was supposed to be celebrating. The whole experience made me think of what I was bringing into my next year of life.

See, the biggest fear I had was that this pain was a result of stress. With me, stress often brings on weird tics, from arm pain to a twitchy eye. It’s never evidence of any physical problem, merely the manifestation of my body buckling under a strain. And I wish I could just turn it off; I know the call is coming from inside the house. But knowing is only half the battle, and the internal continues to wreak havoc on the external, and so this seemed like just the newest front in that endless war, in which my enemy is myself. And I was scared because…

I don’t want it all to be downhill from here.

Like everyone else, I feel like I’m perpetually on the cusp of some ephemeral victory. That moment that makes everything I’ve done and worked for, all that anguish, worth it. That will allow me to enjoy without guilt or fear because life isn’t so bad right now.

Days later, the pain in my neck subsided. Maybe I really did just sleep on it wrong, Or maybe my body is finally ready to let go of whatever tension or anxiety was in my way. Maybe it’s only downhill because it’s finally getting a little easier.

Hey everyone, I’ll be out of the country for a week. I’ll be back with more of these in November. Have a Happy Halloween!