Forty-something (Thoughts on "Middle-Age")
Life Begins at 40
My younger (not so little) brother turned 40 a few months ago, and today I hit a number that puts me a little deeper into the forties. So based on statistical averages, the two of us have reached the mid-point of life. It can be sobering, to say the least, to realize that (if I am lucky) I have as many years in the rear view mirror as in the road ahead. But outside of the feelings of nostalgia and the impending, inevitable loss of people, places, and things that I have known, I don’t really mind this whole middle-aged thing. Truth be told, life for me is as good now, and maybe better, than it has ever been.
As a middle-aged person, I am calmer today than when I was younger. I still get bent out of shape at times for largely stupid reasons, but these bouts of anger and frustration are no longer the daily occurrences that they once were. After years of parenting and teaching, I am also much more comfortable around children, and I am generally more patient and tolerant in the midst of general chaos. I also benefit today from many years of accumulated knowledge and experience that help me in my teaching career, writing hobby, and interactions with other people. When I was eighteen, I generally felt awkward around most people, and like many teenagers, I did not realize how little that I knew. In a writing, historical trivia, or public speaking contest, my middle-aged self would kick my teenage self’s ass pretty easily. And because I can still move around pretty well on the racquetball court, my present self would most likely dominate in that arena as well. And yet, as a somewhat wiser “forty-something,” I know that I will someday look back and marvel at my current level of impatience and ignorance. Humility and wisdom, after all, come slowly.
Like anyone, there are things that I miss from being young: more hair on the top of my head (and less everywhere else), less responsibilities, a bit more energy, and an extra step of quickness. There are also several regrets concerning things in my past that I should have done differently. But if I had a chance to go back and do it over again, I think that I would decline. Every time that I pass by a junior high or high school that is in session, I am thankful that I am no longer stuck in there as a student (or teacher). And all things considered, I am pleasantly surprised by how things have turned out. I just never expected to end up so relatively normal. I have a pretty steady job that I actually like in which, of all things, I spend my time performing in front of people. I have a great family, a house, and most of the things that one associates with the “American Dream.” All that I am missing is the white fence and dog.
Some say that life begins at 40. Now that I have been in these ranks for a while, I can see what they mean. So instead of spending lots of time reminiscing about the past or worrying about the struggles of the future, I will do my best to enjoy what I have. Middle age isn’t so bad, bald head and all.