My eldest and I are a few days apart in birthdays. I’m hitting a “milestone” year and I have to keep answering the same questions about feeling old. Until you become legally eligible for something, there really isn’t a difference between the day before and the day after.
I’m in good shape and in great health. I have the money to do what I want, though not always the time. I’ve got a loving family. Tons of stuff to be thankful for. As an individual, the number doesn’t define me. And really, it’s a time where you should have both time, money, and the wisdom to know what to do with both (in particular if you still have your health).
Yet, events do.
When my kids started school, I felt old. When I started hiring students that were blank slates to my field ’cause the tech simply didn’t exist for them, I felt old. When I realized there were more funerals than weddings, I felt old. Seeing the kids ride bikes, learn to read, develop their own streams of thoughts… hell just grow a few inches…I felt old. In the clearest of sense, age is relative.
I can relate to being not so much a kid, but living those same experiences when I was younger. I did a lot of things, not always with permission but certainly with some guidance. You learn from falling down and getting back up (or knowing when to stay down).
I am not suffering from some sort of existential crisis. A wave of that has certainly hit the social circle… and in the wide majority it is with people who are still with the folks they were with at the end of their teens, and whose kids are now in the more self-sufficient block. All of a sudden, they have much more time on their hands and they start looking around and wondering where the time went, looking at their biological clock. More like regret than bitterness, but all are willing to take major steps for change to ensure primarily their happiness, and by proxy, others around them. It takes a lot of courage to make big changes, and not expect some outside force to make you suddenly happy. Not everyone is willing to make that change.
(I’m not immune to this phase. The wife and I went through a hell of a rough patch a few years ago, but we put in a lot of effort at improving communication and I believe we’re better now than at any point prior. Honest conversations open a lot of doors. And once open, those doors open an entirely different world view.)
So as I edge all the closer to this magic number, I don’t think the date matters as much as my current state. I would not have been able to get here earlier, and would not want to have waited longer. I am happy, I am loved (with love in return), and I am content. More than anything when I do celebrate the birthday, it’s about being thankful for what I have and being able to share with those I care about. The larger step is taking that mindset an applying it outside of this single date, and trying to live it every day. I’m not all the way there, but I’m trying.
This post certainly has a more philosophic vibe to it. Feels good to write it out. Hope you all find what makes you happy, and the right people to share it with.