When I was a kid, being forty was being “over the hill.” The average life expectancy was in the low 70s (M70 / W77) so it was more than half of life gone by and a mere twenty some years to retirement after having worked likely twenty some years already.
These days, the saying goes, 50 is the new 40, as a way to imply the hill is now higher and you don’t round the top till you’re a lot further along age wise. I don’t know if I buy the logic, but I’ve never really bought into he whole numerical deference anyhow since maturity, health, etc. are dependent on the actual depth and breath life experience and not simply the raw passing of time.
Birthdays for many people hold special significance. It is, in and of itself, a mile stone in their lives and the opportunity to look back at where they’ve come from, take stock of what they’ve achieved and set out the next year’s goals, not too dissimilar to how New Years is perceived. It’s quite well documented on the blog, that’s not necessarily how I function, but it really is hard to argue with what it means to turn forty from the social to the philosophical.
Let me sum it up for you in three words: Holy fucking shit
In grade school I could hardly comprehend what thirty would be like and here I am now a full decade further along. I shudder to think what the next ten years will bring…
It actually isn’t as traumatic as it is socially made out to be. After ten years of being a thirty-something it’s actually kind of nice to have a year that contains some type of implied significance and really, for me, there’s none of that mid-life crisis kind of frightened self-reflection happening.
In part, that’s probably each year I self-reflect pretty profoundly, as evidenced by, say, last year’s affirmation, as well as the ongoing reflection that comes out of writing the blog, going to therapy and venting routinely on my closest friends. It’s actually probably a shorter list of life opportunities spent not being reflective than vice versa.
Secondly, it’s probably in part because unlike generations past who began their families younger and have had more time to become detached and gain a feeling of life passing them by, I am just beginning mine now. Yes, it is entirely true, we are procreating!
This actually is the biggest turing point about 40 since the revelation we are having a little one coincides with it so well.
Lately, this has gotten me thinking about the difference between maturity and being grown up. For the most part, I consider myself a mature person, but not always a grown up.
Being a grown up always had this negative connotation to it, as if responsibility had sucked the funlovingness of life clean out of a person. Meanwhile, maturity was held with this bastion of respect having gained wisdom and demonstrated its proper use.
In that, while I feel very mature despite some of my still youthful shortcomings I never actually felt grown up.
I look young. I can thank my grandmother for this. It’s a gift most of the time, but with every gift is the duality of it also being a curse. Sometimes because of this I’m treated like I am much younger than I really am when in public around strangers who don’t know my actual age. There have been many times, including my sister-in-law’s own wedding very recently, where I have been carded at a dinner or in a pub and the waitstaff has to do a double take. I’ve been on job interviews where people questioned the dates on my resume when seeing me in person. I even got called a young whippersnapper by a gentleman on a subway platform (and, truth be told, he didn’t look nearly old enough to pull that phrase off). There’s this snap judgement that occurs and instead of being treated like the middle ager I am I get the mid-twenties brush off. It happened throughout my thirties and it may have gotten in my head as much as any other reason I feel this way.
There are many days when I’m sitting with colleagues and they defer to me as the expert in the room that I feel like a fraud. This is not because I am not the expert they believe me to be. In many cases I am and am self-aware enough to embrace this. This is not because I am uncomfortable with being a leader. Rather, I am more than willing to embrace the position as well. What it is is the uncomfortable notion of being the grown up in the room. As much as I see myself as a fountain of information and have a desire to mentor others in leveraging such information for mutual success, somewhere along the line my self-image is not that of being a veteran or the defacto leader. I might be mature in my knowledge but I’m hardly able to envision myself as the grownup in charge.
Similarly, there are many days walking up to the house coming home from work I get an uncomfortable feeling of disbelief that I own this thing in front of me. While I fancy myself as a mature adult there’s something about the actuality of being a grownup with the responsibilities of a house that eludes the rational nature of my mind. It doesn’t seem real at all that I have gotten to the point of home ownership when in my head I’m still just another dude with a rent check to cut.
So, when I think about being a father now, it’s almost irrational. While I greatly embrace the maturity I perceive myself as possessing I’m struggling with the idea I’m going to be a grownup with a kid to be responsible for. It seems almost foreign in a way and yet, I know full well I’m forty and I have more than enough life experience to do this.
Some might say it’s good that in your heart you feel young. Sure, that’s all fine and dandy when it’s not skewing the hell out of how you’re evaluating the world around you now. But, when suddenly you’re contemplating life from the duality of being old while not actually feeling old it sets up some pretty complex metal gymnastics to bridge the realities.
Others are probably questioning my very sanity. I might myself if I wasn’t the one actually owning the thoughts. I know I’m quite sane and this perception of the world I’m experiencing is quite common. It is a function of self-awareness and the proper qualification of achievement to life experience in a way that accepts one is both simultaneously responsible for and deserving of such achievements. In some ways I am still coming to emotional and intellectual terms with the deserving part. While I know I am responsible for all these things, the measure it is up against from friends and family and whatnot colors my perception of being deserving.
I still feel like a kid sometimes despite not actually been one for quite some times. The world occasionally comes across as if I’m viewing it in the rose colored glasses of a rebellious seventeen year old. I might not act the part of the 14 year old or 17 year old or 22 year old outwardly, most of time, but somewhere trapped in my brain that youth is still the evaluator and his perception of himself and the world around him devalues himself, his achievements and so on.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a daily hangup of mine. It’s a deep thought that surfaces on occasions like today as I write this contemplating what it will mean to be a father as well as a forty-something. I am actually looking very forward to both. All else being equal this couldn’t’ve come at a better time… forty is, after all the new thirty and my thirties for the most part were pretty damned awesome.