Weather: Weirdly warming. In the mid 30s today but heading into the near 50s by weekend.
My birthday is this coming Saturday. I’ll be 46. It’s neither noteworthy or shocking, but it does have some bearing on my life outlook.
Turning 40 was a walk in the park. Turning 45 was cold water on my head. Numbers shouldn’t create such drama, because honestly they’re just arbitrary markers in time. We’re aging at a fairly constant rate. But we’ve applied implications to ages, making them seem more or less important depending on how close they are to other arbitrary life event markers that society seems to plant in our path.
Remember when you were 18? Remember how old 30 seemed? I imagined myself married with kids and settled into some middle aged soccer mom life. Wait….did I say IMAGINED? No I was pretty terrified of that idea, even then. Not the married or kids part, but the settled part.
So 30 came and I was a little disconcerted that I was neither married nor a parent. Or settled. Wasn’t that the expectation? Granted there was a bit of fist pumping involved that I still felt young and vibrant. (Although, truth be told, it wasn’t like I was living like a rock star or out traveling or doing any of the other myriad lifestyle choices that seem to excuse an absence of a settled life to most people’s eyes.)
Then I was 40. Still not feeling my age. Not really looking what I expected to look like at 40. Married. Homeowner. And then the discomfort started settling into my bones. Trying to get back in shape was a much steeper hill to climb. My list of “things to do before you’re too old” needed to shrink a bit. Decisions that I could have made for my life at 29 seemed to have fewer viable options.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not doing the “I’m too old to do things” kinda whine. I firmly believe that unless you’re six feet under, you shouldn’t ever give up the possibility of trying something new. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a realistic view of how much longer the recovery time will be if it goes pear shaped. I think I’m just more pragmatic.
I’m viewing the things on my list with a more realistic perspective. It’s more a case of “You can do anything you want, you just can’t do everything.” I’m also trying to live more simply. Less stuff, more experiences. Fewer toys, fewer distractions.
I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I find clinging to things out of nostalgia is kind of useless for me. (Note, I don’t begrudge others this, because it is a source of comfort to some.) For example, I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and while there was some fantastic music that came out of that era, I don’t understand people who enshrine it to the point of not listening to anything past that era. Mostly because I remember there was an equal amount of crap music that came out during that time frame. Don’t believe me? Go look at the top 50 songs for those years. Seriously. I’ll wait. ::HUMS TO HERSELF:: Did you see a lot of bands and songs you don’t remember? There you go.
Do I wish I had my figure from when I was 18? Oh hell yes. Do I want to be 18 again? OH HOLY CRAP NO! I’ve earned every small worry line, silver hair and knee ache that I experience today. I have a much healthier & wider scoped outlook on things and this world that has been EARNED by experiencing it first hand. Time is a tricky thing. Looking back we can see all the places we’d fix things, spare ourselves some hurt or sidestep a bad experience. Sometimes those regrets overwhelm the good things that came from just living day to day. Time marches forward, no matter what earth shattering thing has been dropped in your lap.
I guess the biggest perspective shift for me is this: The more things I cling to from the past- good, bad or ugly- the less space there is in my life for new things. Because if you’re honest with yourself, there is comfort in things we know, whether they’re good or bad. Comfort zones are appealing, but if that’s all you have? You’re not really changing as a person. You’re not growing.
Trying something new is a risk. There aren’t necessarily any guarantees. But that’s why it’s necessary to try. I could have stuck with playing it safe – never letting anyone read my stories, never trying to make art for other people, never moved across this country, never reached out to people outside my comfort zone of conversation- and probably I could have been happy. But I’m glad I did. I’ve got friends all over the world, some similar to me, some only overlapping with me on the thinnest of things. I’ve met some amazing people because I refused to let my sometimes crippling self-consciousness stop me from stepping up and saying hi! I’ve learned things and experienced things, some good, some bad, some life-changing, and some mind-blowing.
The thing is, all this LIVING has landed me at 45, almost 46, with a pretty damn good idea of who I am. I still falter now and then, allowing others to define me in their terms, or trusting the wrong people or the wrong information, but I don’t let it weigh me down for too long. The pendulum can swing wildly in all aspects of life, but it is only still when it rests in the middle. The older I get, the shorter the time off center I spend. My opinions change, my views alter, and my life adapts accordingly. Age does that to you, and it should.
So these days, being settled isn’t a bad thing, because I’m settled by my own definition. I’m finding things that bring me joy. I’m releasing the things that are outdated or have no place in my life anymore. I try to keep looking forward, because while looking back may bring some comfort, even some perspective, it doesn’t add anything new to my life. You can’t look at the world with fresh perspective if you keep viewing it through the same lenses of cynicism, old pain or golden hued nostalgia.
Of course that won’t stop me from the occasional grumpy “Damn kids today” exhortation.
As always, Your Mileage May Vary.