I'm getting so old.
You kids today!
Oh, woe is me.
Blah, blah, blah.
I hear it all the time and it makes me wonder if everyone forgot how amazing it is that they're alive enough to complain.
I'll be forty years old in a little under three months--May, 9th to be exact. It's quite a milestone for me to say the least. And in saying that I must add that I'm extremely excited to go through it. I'm delighted to enter a new room--so to speak--in the aging process of my life. I'm really, truly, and with all my heart prepared to sink my teeth into this inevitable occurrence.
Because if I make it that far it will mean that I've lived almost three months from right now.
When we're young things are so different. When we say things like "I'm almost five," or "I'm four and a half," we don't say it with horror, despair, or worry in our voice. We say it with wonderment and awe--with hope and anticipation at the whole idea--because we practically can't wait to get there. Then somewhere around the beginning of our teens we stop using fractions and forecasts. We say it straight up with no hesitation or wavering.
And so you are.
And so it goes for many years--excluding the inevitable attempts to pass oneself off as 21 for the four or five years preceding, in order to get served alcohol--and we get through our twenties enjoying all the colors on the palate of our flourishing youth--our salad days, as it were. We fall in and out of love twenty times; we fail and ace test after test; we move from one shithole to the next and enjoy the transient nature that is living out of cardboard boxes. We leave as many things behind as we pick up from others who left theirs where we just landed. We argue with landlords and absorb with a raised ear tales of those who were in our indignant position and held out for months without paying rent. We hear stories of how our rights trump those who pay the property tax and mortgage. We are defiant in defense of our undue plight while the world on the other side of our sense of entitlement rolls along not really noticing our disgust. Because the rest of the world is a little too busy to pay heed to the guy with his arms crossed, his head in the air, mattress on the floor, with a milk crate for a table and a self-imposed static tram route from the dishroom to the bar and back to the mattress again.
And as we go through these predictable motions we creep closer and closer to thirty, that haunted island off the mainland that one has heard terrifying stories passed down from generation to generation. We see it and we don't want to even think about having to someday be forced to languish there. We don't want it because life is so unbelievably simple and serene where we are: twenty-something, energetic, and devoid of the expected medical predispositions and familial expectations that accumulate as we age. We have for nine years lived a life where it's okay to not have a plan. It's all right to sleep all day and go out all night and take and hold (or quit or be fired) the menial jobs that barely--if at all--pay the bills. And in our mind we keep checking that departure slip, rolling it around in our head, understanding that there will come a day--very certainly and irrefutably--when we will wake up and we will be looking across at the mainland from afar ... from that spot we had been staring at for almost ten years, shuddering and picturing the darkness and dread, the banality and drudgery of a life where things start to count--both physically and figuratively--where there is no turning back ... and the hills just get higher ... and the days just seem to slip away.
Then one day you wake up and you're there--you are twenty-nine no longer. You don't know how it happened but you are not on the mainland anymore. And as you stand there at the edge of the island--your new home--and peer off into the distance you see you standing there at the edge of the water looking back--arms folded, head up, convinced it'll be different when the time comes.
But as we all know, things always seem to take longer before we've traveled the distance.
And so I'm so very happy to age. I see it now as a goal and not as a predicament. I see the end of every day as a case won rather than a death sentence. Because I really believe that I am lucky to have gotten this far (and anyone who knows even a little bit of my history can understand why). I am here and I am breathing and that's about all I can say on a minute to minute basis. I'd like to say I can make plans for next year, and I most certainly will. But I have no guarantee that I will be here or that I will be healthy or that I will be sober. All I can do is plan for it and hope that I can realize my goal.
And that's why I just don't understand the many people who I hear complaining about getting older. I mean--not to be insensitive--I realize that there are many drawbacks to aging, be they susceptibility to medical maladies and the increasing attrition rate of one's contemporaries as the road lengthens. But I guess I just enjoy the feeling I get looking at the calendar whose markings and fingerprints weigh down the pages of days that came before today's, tomorrow's and all those from here to the end of the year.
It's a game--it really is. And a great, magical, marvelous, mysterious one at that. And we have so many options as to how to handle our time. When I'm in an uncomfortable position in my life--be it being stuck in traffic, or having said the wrong thing to the wrong person--I like to make a special effort to recall it in the future, to see if it was really as bad as I thought it was, and that's assuming I can actually recall it with much accuracy in the first place. These things slip away--that's what they naturally do. And we can move on and move over and uncover the next hidden treasure ... or we can become hardened and bitter and deplore whatever comes next. And unless we die now something will always come next.
Like I said earlier, things always seem to take longer before we've travelled the distance.
I'm hoping what lies ahead of me takes as long as humanly possible.
And when I say "I'm almost forty," I don't say it with horror, despair, or worry in my voice ... I say it with wonderment and awe--with hope and anticipation at the whole idea--because I practically can't wait to get there.
Thanks for reading,