Friday, March 15, 2013


As many of you know, I have been dreading turning 40 since pretty much the beginning of the year. In fact, it was weighing upon me so much that on February 20th I reached out to some friends (some of whom you know),  and I asked them if they would help me through it:
I have a favor to ask you all. It's probably quite a lot of work, and for that I apologize.

On March 11, I turn 40 years old. This is a huge deal for me. Not much "Oh god, I am getting old" so much as "I am now middle aged and have accomplished NOTHING. I still live at home, have no steady relationship, no regular job, and no prospects of fixing any of that."  I feel like I have inherited the mantle of perpetual loser-dom, and it's really depressing me.  As in, more so than usual for my regular birthday depression.

What I would like for you folks to do is to find some way to cheer me up on my birthday. Now, since you all know me pretty well, you should know that the usual well-wishes simply won't work. I need to feel like I am not a massive hole of suck and fail. Basically, help me believe (and that is the key here) that I am not a loser like I feel I am.  

I don't really have any suggestions other than "Help me see that I've accomplished worthwhile things and that my existence has meaning."  I don't specifically want stuff; nor do I want the usual "Oh, you have brightened my life simply by being my friend" because, however true it may be, the sentiment simply won't penetrate my armor of cynicism and self-hate and I'll just go "Yeah, right, whatever." 

I picked you five because you are smart, caring, creating, and know me pretty well. If anyone can come up with a good scheme to break my depression, it will be you.

I thank you in advance for trying, and I will still love you all even if you don't succeed. 

PS:  No pressure or anything.   :P

About a week or two later, I knew I had picked the right friends for the task when one of them let slip that there was an "Erin Birthday Central."  I wasn't sure if I needed to be flattered or alarmed to discover that I rated a War Room.

The package was preceded by an email ominously titled DO NOT OPEN UNTIL THE BOX ARRIVES.

Well, okay then.

I didn't think it would arrive in time for my birthday, but at 8:30pm the Brown Truck of Joy arrived with a much larger box than I had expected -- about the size of an easel or bulletin board. I leaped to my computer and read the email:

This will explain one of the key elements of your birthday surprise.

One of the most popular traditions in the US when a pilot first solos an airplane is the removal of the pilot's shirt tail.

The traditional removal of a new pilot's shirt tail is a sign of the instructor's new confidence in his student after successful completion of the 1st solo flight. In the days of tandem trainers, the student sat in the front seat, with the instructor behind. As there were often no radios in these early days of aviation, (and in some of those old planes still flying) the instructor would tug on the student pilot's shirttail to get his attention, and then yell in his ear. A successful first solo flight is an indication that the student can fly without the instructor (solo). Hence, there is no longer a need for the shirt tail, and it is cut off by the proud instructor, and often displayed as a trophy. When I learned to fly, the tails were pinned to a big bulletin board at the flight school, with a date, or perhaps a congratulations or word of encouragement from the instructor, for all to see.

That shirt tail was a sign of the courage the budding pilot had, to get out there and try, as well as everything that still lay ahead of them to dream of.

So for your birthday, your pony pack cut off their tails and pinned them to this board, so you can remember. Even if we may not be literally sitting in back of you, we're always behind you, with friendship and support.

My first thought was, quite literally, "Oh no. They cut the tails off of MLP toys and pinned them to a board," and that made me sad because deliberately mutilated toys just seem tragic to me.

I needn't have worried.The present I was given was far, FAR cooler.

A few clarifications before I begin with the image dump:
  1. More than the initial 5 contributed to this.
  2. Some of them wished to remain anonymous, so if you wonder why certain things are covered or not seen, that's why. 
  3. Everyone else named is named by express permission. Yes, even the one that will make you gasp "No way!"  Yes way.

The Loot

Clockwise from left: A tin of Apple(Jack) Cider; two sparkle ponies from blind bags; a personalized note from AGirl; the Spa Pony set; Crystal Empire Twilight Sparkle with book and reading glasses. The background is from some kind of MLP sticker set.

An overview

You are probably already gasping at the top left, so let's just start there.

Top Left

Quoting the person who assembled the gift:  Tam was on the phone with me while I made another stop trying to find pink push pins late one night (no one likes pink?) and when I told her about it she said "Oh, send one from me!" and she told me exactly what to write on there for your day.

So there you have it!  Our own Tamara Keel is, at the least, pony-positive.

Top Right

This one comes from AGirl, and the significance of it is explained in her handwritten note (posted with permission):


The most any of us can be is ourself. I think you under-estimate your worth and what you have to offer.

Your gumption has inspired me countless times to stand up and be myself; to not back down.

This shirt is actually a jacket I wore 2 weeks after I was mugged. I wore it to my very first conceal carry class. That day was the beginning of me having the courage to take full responsibility for my life, its safety & joy.  I wish for you the Happiest Birthday!!!

Wow. I feel like I've been entrusted with a piece of Internet History!

 Top Center

A lovely quote from Melville.

 Left and Right, one layer down 

 Center, two layers down

Hey! No fair maiking me fifty!  I'm already insecure about being forty!



A cross between Malcom Reynolds and Pinkie Pie? Terrifying!

This one came a day or two later

It's metal because he's a robot, you see. 

I have some of the best friends in the world. Thank you, everypony!


  1. What an honor for me!

  2. Gah, youngsters these days. I would love to be as young as 40. You still have a lot of time ahead of you and the natural advantage of not only being intelligent and talented, but female as well. That opens up a lot of possibilities. Have you thought of joining Mensa?

  3. I don't think I'd be a good fit. The "Prove you are good enough for us by paying to join!" aspect is a turn-off for the same reason I didn't go Greek back in college -- needing to buy access to friends and associates strikes me as a character flaw.

    Also, the fact that I have accomplished fuck-all with my life would make me very uncomfortable when talking to doctors and lawyers and the other sorts of successful people.

    So in essence, I would be paying to feel awkward. Shit, I can do that for free at any bar...

  4. Obvously you haven't been to many Mensa parties. There are a few doctors and lawyers, but overall the membership is much more diverse and disfunctional. Most Mensans are not super achievers and have a history of being a little socially awkward, so it tends to be a very tolerant group. I'm a much older computer geek and my life is far from successful.

    As far as paying to join, it's not any different than paying to join a rifle club.

    With your sense of humor and skill with words you would be quite welcome. The fact that you're a gunny would interest a lot of people and horrify a few liberals (I told you it's a very tolerant group). In fact, organizing range days would be a cool thing you could contribute.

    Really, don't be afraid of the people. Overall they are so weird that you would fit fight in.

  5. "I am now middle aged and have accomplished NOTHING. I still live at home, have no steady relationship, no regular job, and no prospects of fixing any of that."

    Wow, sounds a lot like my life. :/ except I'm 18mths ahead of you.

    My instructor thought the shirt cutting thing was dumb so we skipped that.


The Fine Print

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