The Birthday Purity Challenge

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“You’re half done,” my father noted to me on my 39th birthday.  It was not presented as a philosophical talking point like a glass half full/empty conundrum, but as an observation.

Now, as I approach 40, will my childlike inquisitiveness transition to old man irascibility?  If this is to be the case, I want to go into the back half of my life with a renewed body and mind so I can become obsessed with over manicured lawns and warehousing newspapers in case the library needs a replacement of a lost edition.  For one month, I will be giving up the following items so I can start the next decade anew:

  • Added Sugar
  • Alcohol

Glucose and socially acceptable levels of drinking are my biggest vises in four decades of living?  Mundanity and caution are more appropriate items to be deleted.  To retrospectively make myself seem cooler, I will be eliminating the following, albeit non-existent, actions/items from my life:

  • Using hard Drugs
  • Womanizing
  • Gambling
  • Smoking
  • McDonald’s
  • Speeding
  • Easy drugs
  • Caffeine
  • Medical physicals
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Playing video games

Now it feels like I’m creating a Facebook worthy vomit post to show everyone how I’ve seen the light as well as providing inspiration for others.

With all my ills and negative influences removed, it is time to do some good in the world.  I will become a self-appointed member of the following groups:

  • PETA (no dog fighting or buying a pet goldfish)
  • Greenpeace (no recreational whale hunting)
  • Diamond Development Initiative (no purchasing or using blood diamonds)

In times of introspection, one often arises to the conclusion he should plan for the future.  Here is a canned list of bucket list items procured from a series of Google searches:

  • Read a book from start to finish (Done-I read 1-2 books a month already)
  • Restore a bicycle (Done)
  • Run a marathon (Done-Did this in my 20’s)
  • Learn to blow glass (sorry, I refuse to learn a useless skill)
  • Go to Europe (Done-Don’t eighth graders do this for their spring break trip instead of DC?)
  • Build a coffee table from raw wood (Done)
  • Dominate spring break in Mexico (Done)
  • Create a blog with zero to few dedicated readers (Done)
  • Drive a 50-year-old car (Done)
  • Watch the running of the bulls—on TV (Done)
  • Own land (Done)
  • Beat a man in fisticuffs (Done—it was sanctioned match with a referee)
  • Shop at Walmart without feeling superior to the other customers in the store (Impossible)

The bucket list was a fairly useless exercise, but I do get a sense of accomplishment knowing I can die tomorrow having done all there is do in life.


This month of purity has really started to take shape, but to further inspire others, I will add on a series of motivational quotes which sound great, but provide no value in becoming a better person.

  • “Money can’t buy happiness”—No, but it helps.
  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again” —Two words: Restraining order.
  • “Live everyday likes it’s your last”—What do you do when you wake up the next day?
  • “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” —Russian Roulette doesn’t have long term positive expected outcome
  • “Hold my beer”/”You gotta get drunk”
  • “Expect nothing and you will never be disappointed” —Is this motivation or a fact?

This life reorientation exercise provided no value to me and showed that periodically hitting the “Reset” button on life yields nothing more than hindsight depression while breeding anxiety of the future.

Thank you for reading and I apologize for wasting your time.

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4 thoughts on “The Birthday Purity Challenge

  1. You’re killing it, Mark! Keep up the good work. And good luck with your month challenge of no sugar or alcohol. I hope you will consider giving yourself a break for Thanksgiving.

    Question, what is your comment for the motivational bullet point “Hold my beer”/”You gotta get drunk”? And who ever said that was motivational?

    On birthdays, I’ll leave you with this. My friend Megan said to me at my 50th birthday celebration “Welcome to the back 9”. Feel free to use it. Somehow it doesn’t seem as glum as “You’re half done”.


    1. Thanks. I’m starting after Xmas and going to my birthday. Test of will power more than anything else.

      Before anyone does something stupid, it is usually preceded by “Hold my beer”. As for the “You gotta get drunk”–in my experience, drunk people are really motivated to conquer the world with grandiose plans, but then they sober up and all is forgotten.

      “Back 9” has a much more positive spin on things, as for “half done” it gets the point across.

  2. Hi Mark,
    Excellent read and summary of life approaching 40! With all these lists out there of what to accomplish, what to avoid, etc, I must add that picking up and moving to an entirely different region of the country or world leaves a person to avoid these lists. For most people it is hard to consider picking up and leaving everything. Starting fresh while approaching the age of 40 and beyond provides a new world and subconsciously allows a person to avoid these lists. I guess the moral of story is to keep moving and exploring!

    Big Lou

    1. Well said Lou. All these lists online of ‘be nice to people’ and “buy someone a coffee behind you” are nice, but insignificant to major change and action. Looking forward to seeing you in Nashville next year.

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