I’m starting to celebrate milestones I’ve never thought of before and have no way of tracking, ones that happen and are forgotten about like some random Tuesday in March. Last week I’m certain that I ran over my one thousandth pothole on the way home from work and two days ago I was asked if I could spare any change for the eighty-sixth time in my life. I never realize any of these landmark events in the moment they occur, but I tally them up later and realize some happen almost every day. There are milestones crafted inside of my mind like the forty fourth time I’ve ordered the same food from a restaurant or the five hundred and eightieth call that I’ve missed or sent to voicemail. Once I start to count it seems like I won’t be able to stop, and I’m trying to figure out everyone else’s milestones as well, important ones including their one thousandth trip to the grocery store or the fifth time they’ve sat in their car crying in the parking lot, refusing to leave until the sunlight drifts away.
We should really be celebrating more, if you think about it.
In sports when someone reaches a milestone they usually get a plaque, a trophy, or some sort of item to remember the accomplishment by. Often there are fireworks and a moment of pause where the crowd applauds their continuous effort to do whatever it is that they do—crank a ball three hundred yards into an outfield or put on a helmet for two hundred Sundays. Photos are taken, they hold a hand up to the crowd and then that’s that, back to work.
Milestones are never celebrated the same way in everyday life. There’s no fireworks when I manage to finish my seventieth crossword puzzle and I don’t see anyone taking pictures of the person who waits on her two thousandth table just to receive a lousy tip.
Sometimes, after decades of working at the same job, the company will typically give these long-tenured employees a token of gratitude for their years of service. After thirty years of being with the same company, my Dad received a crystal plaque stenciled with his name below the company’s logo. He used to stay up late at night holding his prize, staring at the way the light refracted in the crystal as if it were going to offer something else up to him. He hung it next to pictures of relatives where it did nothing but collect dust.
When he was let go, I found crystal scattered across our back patio like shards of broken bottles. I spent most of that night cleaning the remains up, and looking back I figure that that was the first time I’ve ever had to clean up someone’s shattered plaque, sweeping together thirty years of life and dumping it into the recycle bin. The end of one milestone and the beginning of another.
Maybe there’s a reason we don’t celebrate many milestones past birthdays and years spent accomplishing mundane tasks. Milestones are just roadside markers for a point of progress in life, and as life pushes on those points of progress only become more revealing than they are something to cheer about. The two hundred and twentieth time you’ve cried or the eighth relative that you’ve had to attend a funeral for. Maybe, you just passed the eighteenth time you tried to figure out what was recyclable in your hands and what was not, or the fifty fifth time you said too much to someone you don’t really know. I’m scared sometimes because I feel that I’m the only one who thinks this way, the only person who sees a constant counter in their mind tallying how many times they’ve experienced something or done the same task like that’s just what happens as the years go by. There are certainly milestones that I don’t want to think about—the fourteenth time I’ve talked to someone without knowing that moment will be the last time I saw them or the thirty third promise that I’ve broken to someone I care about. And somewhere along the way the numbers are probably wrong, there are moments that didn’t count or that I’ve pushed so far back into my mind they have been absconded from the record books of life like a day that never really happened.
These milestones are just ways that I total up the mileage on life, how many things we do every single day without recognizing it or stopping to think about the importance of some moments. Pinnacles of the mundane. And most will be forgotten, the same way we forget about yesterday and those days before. Each occurrence becoming a new record that will soon be broken.
Today, I will step outside into snow for what I believe is the one hundred and twenty sixth time. I will scrape the windows and drive in the cold and think of the celebrations in my head, a tiny plaque that congratulates me on another day and another achievement. Confetti and fireworks will detonate somewhere around the world and I’ll just pretend that they’re for me, and me alone.