I had a birthday a week ago. 38. This is one of the big ones. When I was 37, I could still tell myself that I was in my mid-thirties. Now, there’s no denying that I’m almost forty. Having reached that milestone, forty itself shouldn’t be a shock. I guess I’m middle aged now; the long decline has begun. And the amount of time left I’ve got left to do something distinct and creative is comparable to the amount of time I’ve failed to do any such thing; I can’t tell myself anymore that I’m still new and learning the ropes. I’m imagining the next psychologically big birthday will be when I’m 58.
Getting old itself doesn’t bother me (not that I’ve really thought through what it will mean to have a progressively deteriorating body). I’ve always felt like an old man trapped in a young man’s body. Even as a schoolboy, it felt weird that I couldn’t complain about “those damned kids nowadays” because I technically was one.
What does bother me is my lack of accomplishments here at the halfway point. I really should work harder. And I should stop pissing away so much time on the web and my weblog. I won’t though.
That I’m halfway to death is also disquieting, and this disquiet will hopefully be a spiritually fruitful thing.
When you’re young and you look back on your life, and it seems like you’ve done and experienced so little, you say to yourself “there’s so much more to me than that”. This “so much more” that somehow didn’t get recorded in your life history to date is presumably inscribed on your future. When you turn middle aged, your life as a whole is starting to come into view, and you realize that you’ve got to find meaning in the life you actually lived.
One day, when I was in my twenties, I was riding in a car with my mother and maternal grandfather. My grandfather was still alive then, in his late seventies, relatively healthy. I remember he made this offhand comment like “You know, it doesn’t seem like I’ve been alive for seventy-[whatever] years. It doesn’t feel like nearly that long.” That scared me.
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