Age is mostly just some arbitrary — yet bizarrely consequential — thing.
We count our trips around the sun, bunch those trips into groups based on nothing much more grounded than the number of fingers we humans just happened to have evolved on our hands, and then we use those bunches to, with the significance of our passage through what isn’t really much more than our insignificant flickers of conscious life, mark a grand philosophical inquiry, all of it as we search for a deeper meaning to these same happenstance trips around the sun.
As I join the ranks of those who temporarily feel the crush of time, passing years and decades, all of it as I prepare to pass yet another age-based milestone in a few short months, I reflect: I’ve gone digging through the pages of this vast information chasm for something that might ground that passage for me. Advice. Insight. Hope. Fears. Meaning. Rules or fragments of a how-to manual for something that was supposed to have made sense by now.
There isn’t much.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I’m crumbling under the weight of this inquiry. I’m not. I’m just speeding down a metaphorical highway and noting that the odometer of my life is about to roll over to some new number and, well, that it might be time to pull over to the side of the road for a few minutes and do a celebratory dance around the car.
Check the gas gauge.
Wave at a few other passing vehicles.
Kick the tires.
Keep on driving… right?
In two hundred and thirty days I’m turning 40. If you are among those who have already passed that milestone, you are likely quietly chuckling at your computer monitor as you read this. Forty is not a big deal, you think. Wait until fifty! Sixty! Ninety-nine, sonny! But if you are among those of my closer contemporaries, speeding right along with me towards this signpost, you get it.
You don’t want to make a big deal. You don’t want a big deal made. But, you want to know that as the curtain rises on the (symbolic if not actual) second half of your life, that the plot has been building to a coherent story.
Heather is to blame for this post. We were waiting to start our run last night and (in a conversation which I can’t remember the start or the end of) she asked me (for reasons I can’t quite recall) if I was coming up on 40 yet — because it was around 40ish when “you just stop caring how others think of you” … at least too much. There’s not really time for the judgement of someone who hasn’t lived your life all the way through and up until this moment: and no one else is actually paying that close attention anyhow.
I figured maybe I was about to enter some cranky-old-guy stage of life, spouting off about kids-these-days (which I literally did not two hours ago *gasp*) or something, and then I realized, y’know, I think I am actually worried about that. I haven’t been writing here as much because somewhere in my brain I’ve been filtering more, wedging my opinions and ideas up against the notion that society doesn’t really care what some almost 40ish guy has to say about the universe. Thinking (probably completely wrongly) that my best creative years are dragging behind me in a mess of cluttered choices and vague experience.
The engine light seemed to blinking a vague sort of warning, but maybe it was just telling me to fasten my seat belt.
And that was the problem with my quest to find out what-the-hell-is-up-with-40? on the internet. We nearly-40-year-olds are all at the cusp of careless over-caution & self-induced irrelevance: filtering, fretting, and second-guessing the flickering flames our our existence. As if anyone actually cares or is paying attention anyhow: but only a handful of people bother to scribble an “i wuz here” in the dusty wood of that mile marker of life.
So, as out of step with me as you almost certainly are, eventually most of us, the lucky ones at least, have already or will someday slide past that marker, roll over the old odometer of life (and I’m still assuming I will too) — but for me: I’m going to be making a few notes on my visit. Stay tuned.
Two hundred and thirty days. Blink and you miss it.