When I was a snotty young teenager, I thought being 40 made someone old, outdated, and past their prime. That age always seemed to be when people become set in their ways and aren’t quick to embrace new ideas and new technologies. Now that I am about to turn 40 later this week, I’ve had to modify my opinion on this a bit.
Becoming a full-fledged 40-year-old wasn’t really something I ever expected or planned. I feel like I’ve spent my life up to this point traveling very quickly down an interstate, watching these mile markers fly by that represent important milestones – 16, 21, 30. On the very near horizon, I see the sign for 40 and realize that passing it will represent the statistical likelihood that I am more than halfway through my trip. The sides of the road are littered with wreckage of past relationships, missed opportunities, and dreams that have been cast aside. My current vantage point out the windshield makes me realize that it is way too late to ever be a drummer for a rock band, a relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, or a Calvin Klein underwear model. Now all I have left to do is try to get as much driving done as possible before I run out of road.
My trip through life has seemingly gone so fast that I don’t really feel 40 in a lot of ways. I don’t have too many gray hairs, my knees and hand-eye coordination are in decent shape, and I have a much-younger-than-me girlfriend who seems to think that I look okay.
Still, my health is not exactly perfect at this point. I have bad teeth from 40 steady years of junk food and procrastination on dental appointments, and bad hearing from 40 years of wearing headphones to listen to punk rock and heavy metal music on various devices. More than 20 years of solid drinking likely has my liver resembling a half-eaten Arby’s roast beef sandwich.
With my advancing age, I am starting to grow hair in places where I wasn’t growing hair before. I can barely eat a meal that I’ll enjoy without thinking about possible heartburn, indigestion, flatulence, and what it will do to my cholesterol. Physically getting out of bed in the morning is a little harder than it has been in the past, yet spending a morning sleeping in the way I used to seems like a virtual impossibility. Time is ticking away during the second half on my inner game clock, and I feel like I have too much to get done to devote multiple hours to sleep.
I now find myself paying attention to news stories that I would have safely ignored in the past on topics like prostate health, life insurance, and saving money for retirement. Having a sudden interest in reading and watching material like this, it’s no wonder so many people my age have a mid-life crisis.
Turning 40 seems more a source of dread than a cause for celebration for most people, even those who don’t face the prospect of spending most of their birthday stuck in a Neosho County Commission meeting.
There are things I am going to have to worry about when I’m 40 that never seemed to occur to me when I was younger, like the possibility of suffering a heart attack when I’m mowing the lawn, looking at a picture of Katy Perry for more than 10 seconds, or spending five-hour stretches listening to local politicians debate and complain about county credit card policy.
Through it all, I have stubbornly maintained an appreciation for loud music and technological advances, and I have never felt the urge to yell at any kids in my neighborhood to get off my lawn. I am still able to suddenly feel young whenever I see the results of any Chanute election. So, the idea that I’m going to very soon be at the age that plenty of young people consider to be really old is going to take some getting used to.
I will be spending this weekend in Kansas City observing the passage of time and meditating on the direction my life will take, as I take my lovely girlfriend to drink beer, eat barbecue, and see my beloved St. Louis Cardinals battle the Royals. As long as I can continue to spend my free time in such a productive manner, maybe getting older isn’t so bad after all.
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