“Honey, have you seen my birth certificate?”
In early October I got a friendly letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles letting me know my license was set to expire on my birthday, which just happens to be the end of this week. (Judging by the many people I know who are turning 50 this month, all I can say is that February must have been especially cold that year.)
It gave me the option of just moseying on over to the local DMV office with my current license and paying the fee and getting it renewed. That is, of course, if I wanted a plain old state-issued license and not one of those fancy-schmansy Real ID licenses. You know the Real IDs because they have a nifty little star on them in the corner and are supposedly harder to fake than the purely state-issued ones.
I have been dragging my heels on getting a Real ID over the years, mainly because it would require slightly more work on my part - namely finding the certified copy of my birth certificate that is somewhere in my “important stuff do not throw out” box. With the federal government saying that for sure (and they really mean it this time, pinky-swear promise) come next spring you will need a Real ID or passport to get on an airplane.
My passport expired during the pandemic and with no plans to leave the country, I haven’t gotten around to getting it renewed yet. I figured in the off chance I wanted to jet off to some exotic and interesting location such as Cleveland or perhaps Pittsburgh, it would be nice to actually be able to get through security.
This led me to asking my wife where my birth certificate was. I was sure it was with the box of “important papers” or with the even more important papers kept in the small fire safe. While I did find the certificate for the $100 savings bond I got for an essay contest in my senior year of high school, I did not find my birth certificate.
This could have led me off into an existential crisis. Was I actually born where and when I have always thought, or have I been living a lie for the past five decades? Do I even really exist without some piece of paper from the government saying I am not just part of some mass hallucination?
My wife snapped me out of that spiral of self doubt and suggested I go online and order a certified copy, although she did not hold out hope that I would get it in time to renew my license by my birthday.
After checking with the New Jersey vital record website and their ominous warning of months-long delays, I was not too confident myself, but I forged ahead. Much to my surprise, a new certified copy of my birth certificate arrived in the mail last week.
All I had to do was find where I put the letter from the DMV and, along with my current license, I was set to prove to the government that another government confirmed I was actually the person who I always thought I was. It is good that all the parties involved were able to come to consensus on this.
It could be pointed out that perhaps I have done this entire exercise in some sad, and particularly pathetic, attempt at self validation. Let’s be honest, I am not likely to hop on a plane to Cleveland for a weekend getaway, and Pittsburgh is just a pie in the sky dream.
Maybe it is just that my drivers license photo has changed from being a still youngish-looking guy with a dark beard to some old guy who has my name. Each morning as I look in the mirror I am closer to having more white in my beard than brown.
I realize there are products that could take care of that for me, or for that matter breaking down and shaving off the mass of white stuff. Maybe I should embrace the fact that I am no longer as youthful as I once was. Hobbling around with a bum knee the past couple months has certainly reminded me of this fact when I go up and down stairs.
When I was a kid 20 seemed old. Then as a teenager 30 seemed a lifetime away. Now as I tick down the minutes until I turn 50, it is not so much as seeing “old” as being perpetually two decades in the future, but in realizing that all of us are as young in spirit as we choose to be.
And if not, I suppose we will always have Cleveland.
Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.