Yesterday I turned 45 years old. For some reason, as I got up this morning, it hit me more than it did the day before.
Here are a few thoughts about it.
I’m technically halfway to 90 years old. I hope to live even longer than that, even though it’s older than the current average age of departure. But assuming the next 45 years will result in even better technologies for keeping us alive, I’m being optimistic. Still, there’s no denying this is, officially, “middle age.”
I don’t feel middle aged though. At least not emotionally. I’m starting to learn from others that this is not unusual. We all evidently wrestle with how we perceive our relationship with “time” — which is such a reified, non-thing to begin with.
Part of me would love to feel what I assume is a level of authority and confidence that comes with hitting time-based number that most would agree is undeniably “adult.” That’s the insecure part of me, though. The one that depends on something outside of me to tell me what and who I am. On a daily basis, I have to put that part of me in “time out.” It speaks out of turn and still isn’t quite housebroken.
Nowadays I have to work harder to catch myself resting on laurels or assumptions from prior experience. My eye-roll reflex is now nimbler and quicker on the draw than when I was younger. And that’s a dangerous reflex to exercise. When I notice myself being unthinkingly dismissive of a new idea, or an old idea revived in a new situation, I feel a little like Roy Batty in Bladerunner, catching his limbs in the first stages of rigor mortis, willing them to keep moving. Luckily I don’t have to stab myself with a nail. I just have to breathe, and remember to listen more closely. (Not that I find either of those things easy; some days I’d rather stick myself with a nail.)
I’m glad I’m working in a job where the company is still finding itself, watching itself evolve. It feels more like the old meaning of “company” — a group of companions, compatriots, fellow travelers.
I’m glad I’m working on this crazy book about stuff that I still wonder if I fully understand. I’m having to learn things in order to write it, and I’m never sure if I’m fully grasping and articulating the material; but I suppose that’s better than the comfortable stasis of writing only certainties. Even though I have weekly battles of self-doubt, I’m learning so much, and accomplishing something I never thought I’d have the wherewithal to do.
My wife and I are moving again, back to Philadelphia. We’ve been wanting to finally end up someplace where we could say “this is where we live” and put down some roots, at least for a while. So we’re going back to the place where we met, and where, when we feel homesick, it’s for that place. Is this going backward? Maybe. But only if we expect to be the same people we were when we lived there before. We’re not. We’ve grown a lot in four years; changed. Plus, now we have a dog. So we’ll see.
And watching my daughter become who she is becoming. Almost 17 now. Kind, intelligent, curious, good. Her mother has worked miracles in raising her. My daughter, who has to learn her own lessons, find her own way, no matter how much her parents would like to carve a safe, happy path in front of her. What a bracing, beautiful paradox it is, to have the power to bring a human being into the world, but be so utterly powerless in the face of their own story that only they can make.
So. Halfway. Even this far into my own story, I’m still a rough draft. I suppose I’ve always felt “half done” about most things, even the ones I’ve technically finished. I’ve always felt suspended between the poles of “making” and “unmaking.” There are more days, now, when I feel at peace with that unmoored oscillation. Not many, but more.
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