Year 8 of a Facebook Social Experiment

This originally appeared on my Facebook Page.

Alright y’all, buckle up. It’s July 19th and that means it’s time for a massive post, prefaced the same way every year.

It’s the day before my birthday and for the last eight years I’ve started a new birthday tradition for myself. On July 19th I ask everyone to consider diverting the happy birthday messages that I will start to receive at 12:01am on July 20th, and send a nice message to someone else who might need a pick me up instead.

TL:DR skip to the last little bit, the middle parts are ego strokes.

How do you put a cap on what has been maybe the best year of your entire life?

In the past these posts have been cathartic. A way for me to address the empty void left by the loss of my parents and career. In each situation I made the best of it I could. I found a new career that paid me enough to fund an art habit. I made weird, wonderful, exciting art that fulfilled me and opened new doors and new opportunities. I explored passions that I’d never checked in on before and even took a dip into the world of technology to see if a new career is what my heart wanted.

One year ago I was about to propose to Jenni. We soon after got married, bought an apartment, and have since built the beginnings of a stunningly beautiful life together.

With her guidance and support I gave my notice at my tech job and came back to acting and producing as a full-time focus. That freedom and decision has already yielded huge opportunities that I can’t wait to share with you just as soon as they’re buttoned up.

If I step back, squint a little, and look at the life I hoped to have when I was younger I’d be honestly pretty close to where I am today. Sure I imagined the last few years would still have my parents in them, and would have been much more full of performing professionally but that is on the horizon, and it’s close.

I am happy. I am fulfilled. I’m — dare I say it — joyous.

This post has been sad in the past. It has been happy in the past. It is always bittersweet. As I look forward to a future full of exactly what I dreams for so long, this ritual of this post gives me the utter clarity and space to consider each year past. I re-read each of the posts over the last few years and consider who was writing it. It’s a direct line from me to the kid whose dreams seemed so out of reach just a few short years ago.

Last year I wrote something that makes my heart soar, and I had no idea while writing it just how true these words would be one year later.

“Hey, Ned. You did it, man. You came out okay. You came out happy. You had many days where you felt defeated, bruised, battered, downtrodden, and like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. And I’m standing here telling you, you hustled, you kept your head up, you let yourself cry, and when all was said and done you found a path to a happiness you’d never known prior.

Good work. I’m proud of you.”

I’m proud of me. I’m proud to be me. I’m proud of who I am. I’m proud of the path I’ve taken. I’m someone my parents would be so proud of. I miss them so much every day, but each and every day I get to introduce Jenni to them in little ways. And through her I get to see them again, and again, and again. Missing them doesn’t bring them back. Living the dream they always had for me does. It took me many many years to even comprehend that, even longer to believe it.

Today I walk on a path I have chosen with happiness and pride. That’s all they ever wanted.

And so I ask you all to continue my experiment for another year.

If tomorrow you send me a birthday message, trust me, I’ll read it, and love it. But take a second and consider instead posting something to someone else’s wall, or sending them a message, who might just benefit from it even more, who might need a reminder that the world loves them and that they are valuable.

If on July 20th, our world is filled with a few more smiles, a little less self hatred, a lot more love, and a little less animosity, that’s the best birthday gift I can ask for.

I love you all.

~Ned

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Ned Donovan

Ned Donovan

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He/Him • Actor • Producer • Co-Founder Audition Cat, Charging Moose Media, Play+1 • Board Member New Jersey Web Festival • https://neddonovan.com/links