I hit that age on this past Sunday. The big 4-0. I celebrated in in a fashion that can be best described as lame. But more aptly as a new parent, in the middle of the semester with work to do. I relaxed, had some delicious waffles and stayed in my pajamas most of the day except when I had to go take out the garbage. Normally I do that in pajamas too, but it was cold and the snow was a bit deep. 🙂
The age I am sure doesn’t mean quite the same thing as it did to my parents or my grandparents. There is a good chance it will not be on average the half way point to the end. We stand on the precipice of some amazing advances in science (as perhaps anybody could say I suppose from any time) that may allow us to live longer lives. Society makes a big deal of round numbers in our base 10 numbering system. Personally I think perfect squares would have been a numerically more satisfying way to mark off “big” birthdays. You have a lot of them while you are young, but thankfully get much further apart as you get older. So I’ve decided to fear the age 49 instead. 🙂 Society tells me there is something special about 40 so I thought it was a good time to reflect and so I gave in to society and tried to take a look at my life.
The reality is that today is only a few days different from when I was in my 30’s and honestly I loved my late 30’s. There is a certain peacefulness that comes in your late 30’s when you’ve sort of experienced a good portion of the crap that life throws at you so that it doesn’t really throw you for a loop anymore. Things unexpected happen, but I guess you just learn to expect the unexpected. Things don’t seem quite as hard.
When I was a teenager I saw the person I wanted to be, but I felt like that person was trapped inside. It was only once I moved away from home and took my own path in life that the person I wanted to be has come out. I think I’ve become that person, but I am better than what I envisioned because when I was a teenager I saw that person as an endpoint. But for any human being who walks through the world there is no end to the journey. You will always change. At least you always should. Most importantly I’ve learned how to see the ways in which I want to be better and have the patience to realize that these things don’t happen overnight. I have given myself the identity of an unfinished project and that is who I always will be. Because I’m comfortable with that, I think that has given me the ability to enjoy the moment that always worry about the future.
Of course just having a child gives one much more pause for that. I am sure there are many at my age who are close to seeing their children move out into the world on their own. For me that journey is just beginning. In some ways it’s tiring to think about. Thinking about how old I’ll be when my son graduates high school and all those other landmarks events in a child’s life. Wondering whether I’ll even see grandchildren if my son chooses to have children and if he waits as long as I do. But mostly it’s rejuvenating. At 40 I get to see through the eyes of the young. At 40 I am reminiscing about my childhood in ways I have never done before. And if I wasn’t so sleepy I’d feel so completely young right now. 🙂 I’ve decided though, what does sleepiness have to do with the joy in my heart. And much of the sleepiness is of my own making. He is sleeping right now and I could too, and simply wake up with him when he needs fed. But I love just being able to look at him, to watch him sleep. To be reminded that there is peacefulness, and the simple joys in this world that we forget far too often.
And there is nothing like having a child that makes you take stock of who you are. That peacefulness that he represents is because is innocent. Unaware of hate, and racism, and all the things that make the weight of the world seem so heavy. His shoulders are completely free of it all. I think we all know a time will come when that innocence is lost. I get why people try to preserve it as long as they can. There are things in life that you cannot unlearn or forget, and so it is almost with envy that I look at my child. I do not begrudge him though because all will happen in its own time. And maybe it is only in our eyes that we see them so free of the pain we all carry about the harshness of the world. But perhaps tears over being hungry or a wet diaper is no different than the tears we shed over death, misery, and tragedy. Our pain is all relative to what we know. Nevertheless, knowing what is to come and what he will learn, I must look inward. Knowing that I will be one of his primary examples of what a man is. He will learn so much just from watching me. So I know that I must continue strive to be a better man, because the world needs better men. Gender inequality still exists in almost all corners of the world and even in the freest of societies.
I shall end this off with the obligatory advice that my 40 years of wisdom has brought me and that is simply to tell you to embrace change. Take it to heart. Change is evitable and so if you embrace it, it becomes as comforting and secure as anything else. Life passes us by when we trade away change for the security of the static and predictable. Variety is truly the spice of life. Keep trying new things. Learn something new. Get inspired. You will find that time begins to slow down and then you won’t wake up when day and you’ll be 40 or 50 or 60, because you will have enjoyed each moment. And remember one of the best ways to enjoy each moment is to make each moment better for others. I am well aware that I am truly blessed for where I grew up, and the family and friends I have had along the way. Always share that joy if you have been fortunate enough to have that joy shared with you.