My father, who has worked with computers his whole life, called to wish me a happy birthday. I had just turned 36, and 36 is how old my father was when my parents, Sasha, and I emigrated from Russia to America. You’re turning 36 the way people are supposed to, he told me: You’re settled, established in your profession, everything’s on track.

     When he was 36, he said, he was rebooting: He had to throw away everything he’d built up in Russia, and started from scratch in America. And true enough, he was as well set in Russia as most people could be; when we came here, he had to start again at minimum wage as a computer operator, taking two buses to get to work, and having to work two jobs for a while. He said this without rancor — he’s done very well for himself and his family (he and I are partners in the small software business we cofounded), and his decision to reboot has been proven sound many times over. But it was an interesting reflection on the difference between his life and mine. If only lives were as easy to reboot as computers.

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