I’m a little early with this I suppose, but in another year and a bit, I’m going to be 40 years old. I don’t consider myself old by any means, however as I approach this benchmark age I can’t help but think about the life experiences that have brought me to where I am today, and how my perspective on life has changed through the years.
Basketball was such an important part of my youth, and I remember running through the various drills during high school practice and the feeling I got after dunking over the opposition like they were yesterday. But that wasn’t yesterday. My last game was nearly 20 years ago. I’ve barely touched a basketball since. “Kids” who weren’t even born yet at that time, are now themselves graduating from high school. It just kind of blows your mind when you stop to think about it. Where did the last 20 years go?
Every morning when I wake up now, I get out of bed and hobble to the shower, working through the stiffness that has taken control of my ankles. Multiple severely sprained ankles during my basketball playing days, and 20 years tacked on for good measure are surely to blame. The stiffness goes away after about 15 minutes of moving around, but still, it’s an undeniable sign of age.
Grey hairs that once freaked me out, no longer even get a second look. They’re there, I know it, and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s just a matter of time before my receding hairline takes care of that problem anyway.
My knees make weird noises sometimes when I walk up the stairs. That’s new. I’ve accepted the fact that I wear glasses. Contact lenses are still great for the rare occasion that I do anything remotely athletic, but aren’t worth the hassle otherwise. I am who I am, I like who I am, and if you don’t like me, that’s your problem, not mine. I wear a tie 5 days a week. I know how to cook a turkey now. Couldn’t say that 20 years ago.
If there’s garbage that has blown onto my front yard, I notice that now. 20 years ago I never would have even thought about it, but now I want to hunt down whichever inconsiderate neighbour didn’t have enough common sense to secure their garbage on a windy garbage day, tie that garbage to a rock, and throw it through their front window. That’s what I want to do. What I actually do however is leave it there for several days to see if it will blow off my lawn and into someone else’s lawn, and if it hasn’t done so by the next garbage day, I’ll pick it up and include it with my garbage, wondering why I hadn’t just done that a week ago.
Kids seem dumber these days. I don’t understand them. They have so much, yet they appreciate so little. They wear their clothes funny. They expect things, but aren’t prepared to earn them. Is this really the generation I’m going to have to rely on to take care of me in my golden years? That scares me. How are they ever going to be prepared for the “real world” when they’ve grown up being handed everything on a silver platter, cannot be adequately punished for bad behaviour, and cannot be given a failing grade in school even though they deserve it? That’s not real life. In my day things were very different. Oh Jesus, I just said “In my day…”, that’s not good.
I am no longer immortal, and though I plan to be here for at least another 40 years, I know that someday there won’t be another tomorrow. I’ve lost close family members, but I’m still here, so I better make the most of it. If what they taught me as a child in Sunday School was correct, I’ll see them again someday. I truly hope so. I’m thankful for what I have, not remorseful over what I’ve lost. People talk about saving for retirement at my age. Save what for retirement? Money? Travelling? Retirement is a tomorrow that may or may not come. Of course I’ll plan ahead just in case, but I’m here now. Now is what counts. If I can do it now, I will. If I can have fun now, I will.
I watch the news now, intentionally, and actually pay attention. I don’t have a job, I have a career. Staying awake past 11pm is sometimes a chore, and sleeping in on a weekend past 9am is a rare treat. I don’t count how many beers I’ve had in order to brag about it, I count how many beers I’ve had to make sure I make the right decision when it’s time to go home. You will not find any references to my after-school job at Valu-Mart on my resume. All-inclusive resort vacations no longer interest me, I want to see the world, not the bottom of a cup. I don’t call anyone “Mr.” anymore.
As a teenager we think we have the world figured out, but the truth is, we don’t know jack! We reach our mid-20’s and realize the world is a much bigger place than we ever imagined. In our 30’s our eyes finally open, and we learn to understand just how little we actually knew back then. We laugh at our former selves, not with regret, but with humility. When we reach 40 we have a new respect for life. We’ve experienced a lot by now, and are getting ready to enter the prime years of our business careers. Is this the age when we finally get a handle on life, and what it means to be alive? I think I have a pretty good idea, but then again, maybe I don’t. I imagine there’s a 60 year old somewhere reading this laughing at me, thinking “Nice try kid, come speak to me in 20 years”. I look forward to seeing what the next 20 years will bring, but I’m in no hurry to get there. I’m having too much fun right now, and really, isn't that the point?