G.O. For Change

Changing people, places, and things one blog at a time…

Birthday Wishes

with 4 comments


A few weeks ago I became the ripe old age of Thirty (here come the AARP cards!). The night of my birthday I was in a local night club and as the clock ticked toward midnight, I found myself looking at my watch intently; It seemed as though it stayed 11:59 p.m. for an extra 10 minutes! At midnight, I was given a shot of liquor, (make that 3), hugs from people in the club, and several Happy Birthday wishes from many of my friends, via text, or by facebook. As I cruised home early that morning, I thought to myself “you are 30 years old!”  I laughed at the thought of the comments people would make: “Officially a grown man and “old ass man came to mind.   

When we think about birthdays, what we really are celebrating are the achievements that come along with each birthday. Our first birthday celebrates the first year of life – complete with the standard smash the cake with our fingers move, we progress and move on to our teens, where 16 apparently is sweet and when we are 18, nobody can tell us anything! We are flying high, with no care in the world! At age twenty-one we get our first taste of freeeeeeeedom!  (freedom, coincidently, tastes like alcohol)   

So as we cruise through our twenties, we come upon the age twenty-five no longer the giddy 18 year old, or the carefree twenty-one year old, by this time you have bills, and for some, debt. School loans, car loan, and big mama loans are calling…with interest! Think about how we craved to be young again, no worries, no past due notices, when all you had to do was your homework, change out of your “school clothes” into your “play clothes”, and that’s it!! Oh how I wish it were 1986 again! To buy sky blue frozen cups, penny candies, and pop rocks! To play Nintendo, (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, A, B, select, start!! YES!! STILL GOT IT!! ) and to enjoy food that came in cans!!  

So what makes these different ages the focal point in our livelihood? Why is it that companies do not create 62nd birthday balloons? Psychologists, like Erik Erikson, have looked at our stages of development, and focused on key stages in life. In these stages of development, the person confronts, and hopefully masters, new challenges.   



Sorry Grandma, this is NOT a milestone, I don't think anyone will be showing up for this party...


Each stage builds on the successful completion of earlier stages. The challenges of stages not successfully completed may be expected to reappear as problems in the future.  Take a look at these stages, and see where you, your kids, and everyone else is according to my main man, Erik Erikson or “Easy E” as I like to call him:


Stage Basic Conflict Important Events Outcome
Infancy (birth to 18 months) Trust vs. Mistrust Feeding Children develop a sense of trust when caregivers provide reliability, care, and affection. A lack of this will lead to mistrust.
Early Childhood (2 to 3 years) Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt Toilet Training Children need to develop a sense of personal control over physical skills and a sense of independence. Success leads to feelings of autonomy, failure results in feelings of shame and doubt.
Preschool (3 to 5 years) Initiative vs. Guilt Exploration Children need to begin asserting control and power over the environment. Success in this stage leads to a sense of purpose. Children who try to exert too much power experience disapproval, resulting in a sense of guilt.
School Age (6 to 11 years) Industry vs. Inferiority School Children need to cope with new social and academic demands. Success leads to a sense of competence, while failure results in feelings of inferiority.
Adolescence (12 to 18 years) Identity vs. Role Confusion Social Relationships Teens need to develop a sense of self and personal identity. Success leads to an ability to stay true to yourself, while failure leads to role confusion and a weak sense of self.
Young Adulthood (19 to 40 years) Intimacy vs. Isolation Relationships Young adults need to form intimate, loving relationships with other people. Success leads to strong relationships, while failure results in loneliness and isolation.
Middle Adulthood (40 to 65 years) Generativity vs. Stagnation Work and Parenthood Adults need to create or nurture things that will outlast them, often by having children or creating a positive change that benefits other people. Success leads to feelings of usefulness and accomplishment, while failure results in shallow involvement in the world.
Maturity(65 to death) Ego Integrity vs. Despair Reflection on Life Older adults need to look back on life and feel a sense of fulfillment. Success at this stage leads to feelings of wisdom, while failure results in regret, bitterness, and despair.

So, when we blow those candles out, hopefully, you have completed critical stages in your life—if not, well, there is always room for improvement (and cake!).   




Written by Garry O'Neal Jr.

March 15, 2010 at 1:47 pm

4 Responses

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  1. I welcome every year. I would only hope to live to see 62 and many more!!! Don’t care about growing old. I look at them as another year of life which I was not guaranteed. KEEP ‘EM COMING!!!


    March 15, 2010 at 11:16 pm

  2. Great Job!!!

    It’s good to see you exploring other avenues to express your feelings and thoughts for others to learn or grow from. The funny thing is that I was reading this just waiting to hear a “punch line” but instead I found myself thinking how do I fit in this chart or how did my past life experiences alter my growth. When I see the chart I see stages in which I missed or combined. I think my independence and determination molded who I’am today. With that said I will try to make sure my kids don’t grow up too fast so they can enjoy their growth stages of life.


    “Life Is A Race, We Set Our Own Pace” Troy Speights

    Troy Speights

    March 15, 2010 at 11:24 pm

  3. Garry, enjoyed your blog; it was thorough and forthright. Erickson or “Easy-E,” as you put him described the physical, emotional and psychological steps or stages of human development. At times, we all reminisce about past tasks, relationships and play things that we miss…it is definitely unfortunate but we move on, we move forward, we learn bigger and better things as well as people.

    When I tend to reminisce, I use a technique that is widely used with Buddhism and Taoism in an effort to get back on track. Using a thermostat metaphor is helpful to many people. When negative emotions become overwhelming, simply dial the emotional temperature down a bit in order to think about the problem rationally and clearly. In other words, it’s good to reflect and it’s better to gather new ideas. Besides, when you reflect too much on the past, it could slow your heart rate (sitting still and remembering); in addition when you reflect on the play toys, candy and at times relationships…do you ever get a bit confused?

    For example, I remember playing ring around the rosy with friends and the fact that I let go and one friend was sent flying into a parked car. Or, sitting at a crab feast (I love crabs) and eating as much crabs as I can for $50 or more then reflecting on the many functions I’ve attended and missing people that are not around.

    According to Science Psychologist Kross and Ayduk (2008) people who use the distanced-analysis approach may likely show lower levels of depression than those who had used self-immersed analysis and distraction. Distanced-analysis not only helps people cope with intense feelings adaptively in the short-term, but critically also helps people work through negative experiences over time.

    Look, I’m not knocking that you should not reminisce and of course Easy E had great intentions on steps toward human development. I am only attempting to stimulate neurons like Sigmund Freud most graciously stated, “A man should not strive to eliminate his complexes but to get into accord with them: they are legitimately what directs his conduct in the world.” Laugh and be serious as the same time.

    Ooo one more thing: Happy Birthday G. O. You deserve everything that life offers you.


    March 23, 2010 at 8:42 pm

  4. Good read!

    Sheree Moore

    April 11, 2010 at 6:35 pm

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