I’m getting older. That seems like such a stupid thing to say considering that we’re all in a constant state of aging. It’s not surprising or special. It’s a fact we state every year of our lives and then more often as those years tick by. Yes. I’m getting older. You’re getting older. We all are.
I’m going to be 40 this year and that’s supposed to be monumental. If television is to be believed, I need to get an earring and a Ferrari and then cry my eyes out. 40. Woe is me. How did this happen?
Here’s the thing, though. I’m sort of desensitized to all of that. I’ve been playing this, “look how old I’m getting” game since I was barely a teenager. I’m not exaggerating either. I remember it like it was yesterday…which it feels like it was, but wasn’t. You know, because I’m getting older.
We were rounding the final weeks of ninth grade and our accounting teacher was overloading us with extra work for the final test. It was brutal. Sweltering in our seats, we listened to our miniature and mundane instructor drone on and on about accounts receivables until one student finally broke. He slammed his hand down on his desk.
What the hell!? It’s the end of the year! If this was elementary school, we’d be bringing board games in by now! I hate getting old!
That kid was the first person to ever make me nostalgic for an age gone by. Sadly, that same feeling would spring up again every year with a slight sting, every five years with a sharper sting, and every decade with a full on kick to the teeth.
I remember complaining about the big 2-5 in the weeks before it happened. Wow. Quarter century! 25 was the first non-celebratory milestone birthday. You could vote at 18. You could drink at 21. This one, though, was just about getting a rounder and older number. I couldn’t believe it was happening and made sure those around me knew. I also remember older people telling me to shut up.
I can rent a car now. I’m old!
They would turn up an eyebrow and reply with something like, “That’s not a thing. No one cares about renting cars. You’re not old.”
If I thought that was bad, 30 was even tougher. Everyone I know would call one another and give the usual spiel.
Can you believe it? 30? What happened? It was just yesterday that we were 20! Wow! Remember Pogs and Alf?! 30! We’ve been able to rent cars for like five years already!
Sure, I hadn’t rented any cars yet, but it was still a major moment. 30. That’s old, right? How did that happen? How did time move on and I, along with it? For some reason, I think a part of me expected the years to advance while I remained perpetually 11 years old. I never even considered life after 20 until I hit 20. Same with 30 and so on. Seems ridiculous? Yeah. Kinda.
The thing is, time doesn’t stop. If I’m still on this Earth come summer, I’m going to be 40. Then 41 and all the rest like dominoes. If I’m lucky enough, I’ll live to see all the ages I haven’t even contemplated yet and live a full life. Besides, it’s not how old you are. It’s how old you feel.
Yeah, I know that’s just something old people say when they are trying to ignore their clicking knees. In many cases, though, it’s true. I’m healthier now than I ever was at 20 and light years beyond in terms of self-awareness. In literal cases like health and nutrition, I’m much younger than I was in my Taco Bell Teens. If we’re using “young” as a figurative code word for feeling “happy”, then this is the youngest I’ve ever felt in my life.
The ups and the downs I’ve faced since I was younger have all taught me something about who I am. The people I met in my earlier days have prepared me for the people I meet now. With each passing year, I feel more in tune with the world around me and more comfortable in it. Getting older isn’t something to dread. It’s something to strive for and be proud of.
So I’m not going to do it this year. I’m not going to call people with the ol’, “Wow. 40?! Look at us! Remember Ace of Base?! How did this happen?!” I’m not doing it at 50 or 60 either. I know how this happened. I lived. I learned. I grew. It’s the whole point of why we’re here. All the “Just For Men” hair dye commercials and black birthday balloons with tombstones on them can’t shake me.
I’m ready for this now. I’ve had 40 years and many birthdays to prepare for it. With all of that, I’ve learned one important thing. Aging is nothing to get upset about. In fact, you could say that everything I’ve written here is basically a moot point. Learning experiences aside, this whole process is really just a simple inevitability.
Getting older either happens or it doesn’t. That’s it. If it doesn’t, it’s because you’re dead. And I’ll take old over that any day.