I’m 41 years old today and I never expected to live this long. Although I’ve spent more time in hospitals than I’d have liked, my lifespan expectations were not born from a specific reason. I simply recall as a teenager imagining the totality of my life and somehow those imaginations never got far past 30. There just didn’t seem anything beyond that point as far as I could tell. My horizon ended there and now to reach beyond it is a pleasant surprise.
I don’t know why but as I’ve entered middle age I’m filled with giddiness. This all seems like a bonus round. I have my health and some of my sanity left. I say some, as I find most of adult life comically absurd. Voltaire wrote that “God is a comedian playing to an audience afraid to laugh” and I don’t seem to have much fear in that regard. Here in the first world we are so lost in distraction and pretense that taking most of what goes on at face value is something I’ve long shed from my experience of life.
7 months ago I tore my achilles tendon, but yesterday, after months of physical therapy, I was able to play basketball again for the first time. It’s a miracle of modern medicine I can walk without a cane, but to play is magical. And it’s magic purely for me. No one on the court knew my story. Kids half my age just saw me smiling and had no idea why. And I find myself seeking others who have similar smiles, a smile they don’t need to explain, a smile unhinged from the weather, or a job, or other trivia, a smile from somewhere deep inside that reflects their appreciation for the amazingness of ordinary things. Being alive, compared to the alternative, makes everything extraordinary.
And having lived beneath my means, provided I don’t do anything impressively stupid, I should be able to spend the better part of my remaining years doing what I’ve been doing for the last ten: living the life of a writer. I’ve made many sacrifices to get here, but it has held the deepest meaning for me to try and fill that shelf. I’m doing everything I can to make this dream last as long as I do. And I hope you’ll continue to help that dream simply by reading and following along.
Many people my age or older half-joke about wishing to be younger. Wishing to be young is a coward’s wish. People who wish to be younger would squander that miracle. They’re wasting the time they have now pretending they’d make better use of a different now. My soul fades in these conversations, as the souls of these people are already dead. They’ve buried their dreams under so many copouts they can’t tell the difference. I used to make the arguments, but I’ve learned they don’t want to hear them. They prefer the certainty of a fantasy, to the uncertainty of living fully in the present. The same cowardice that failed them the first time around would only fail them again if they had a second chance. And as I age I wonder: how am I still a coward? What would I do if I had the courage? Getting older makes me more courageous as I have far less to lose. Courage is far scarcer and more important than youth, and the upside is you can always grow more courageous, at any time, at any age.
America has a youth obsessed culture, but I’m slowly taking arms against it. The longer I’m alive the further I’ll be on creakier end of the bell curve of age, and I better get used to it. I’ve learned to be comfortable as the oldest person at the table now. I can learn as much from younger people as they can from someone older. I’m fascinated by young adults, old enough to be on their own but young enough to passionately chase their sky high ambitions.
I don’t envy their age, as they have so much to learn about what they want from life, but I’m drawn to their openness to the present. They make big bets on life, bets people my age are terrified of making, and maybe always were. But I have many big bets I still want to make. We are social creatures and behave like those we choose to be around, and I’m thinking I don’t want to act my age. I don’t want to hang out with my ‘peer’ group. The peers of my soul are not the peers of my generation. I find my mentality, despite my age, is far younger than my body and I hope it stays that way forever.