On Turning 29

Today is my birthday, and as part of that, I’ve decided to start this blog.  In truth, I’m a terrible blogger.  I think much faster than I type or write, and often don’t want to retread my thoughts for the sole purpose of written recording.  If no one else is going to read it or care, why bother?  But who knows – this will be a multi-purpose blog, so perhaps people will read it for one thing and find value in another.

Aging is a tricky thing.  We feel young for so long and, in truth, we are.  But there are always signs that we’re not anymore.  Iconic sports figures from childhood retire.  Actors that we grew up watching die.  Musicians we listened to die.  Our friends start having babies, signalling that the next generation is starting… signalling that we’ve become old and outdated.  Youth is a feeling of perpetual invincibility; the knowledge that tomorrow can always be a better day, that we’re always improving from a biological standpoint.  Even if we don’t know this consciously, the idea is imbedded in us – a 19-year-old is not worried about how much harder it’ll be to get those six-pack abs when they’re 20, for example.  But as we age up, those concerns creep in.  The knowledge that tomorrow may not, in fact, be a better day; that our bodies have gone from a state of perpetual growth and improvement to the beginning of slow and steady decay.  Those six-pack abs, as a 29-year-old, are more accessible right now than they will be as a 30-year-old.  Our bodies are starting to work against us.  It’s not that this is a condemnation of aging or that we’re suddenly geriatric at 30; it’s simply the noting of a paradigm shift in the way we think of ourselves.  To spend a quarter-century with the knowledge that our bodies and minds are working in our favor and then suddenly start to realize that’s changing… it’s a significant change in life.

I don’t know if the previous generation had expectations the way mine did.  We grew up being told how successful we’d be and being encouraged to make 5-year plans starting in middle school.  We weren’t quite the generation of “there is no second place; everyone’s a winner” mind you, but we were a generation accustomed to a certain degree of affluence.  Not a financial affluence, but a sort of… affluence of hope; it was the 1990s, America was on top of the world, and our parents had been one of the most successful generations in history as the American middle class boomed.  Life was our plan and the world our oyster.  Until the bottom fell out, of course.

I never planned to be a wanderer.  In fact, between my sister and I, no one would have predicted that she’d remain in Michigan while I lived in three different states over a span of six years.  But if life has taught me anything since I graduated from college, it’s that things rarely go as planned.  Whatever plans I had growing up have been tossed aside and shredded.  I’m not really sure I had plans, per se, but I certainly had expectations.  Our parents were the middle class; I think, if nothing else, expected to find jobs that we could hold and count on, at least a bit, while we nurtured dreams before we had families.  I never found that job and, in all fairness, never really nurtured my dreams so much as I simply expected them to happen.  They never did.  My greatest fortune over the past four years or so was that I met the woman who became my wife; the unfortunate flip-side to that was that as I finally gained a level of stability in my life again, circumstances in her life forced a temporary move (for 2 years) and, therefore, a return to wandering.

Perhaps the mistake of my generation, the great conceit we have, is that we assume life doesn’t happen to us, rather that we happen to life.  Growing up, it’s fair to say that I always believed I could effect the changes I wanted and life would sort of bend to my will.  That’s really not the case.  A lot of life is how we deal with what happens to us, rather than what we actually make happen.  But what little we can effect – we have to make good on.  That’s been where I’ve erred in my adult life so far, I think; I have not made good on the opportunities I’ve had to effect my own life.  I turn 29 today and begin my 4th decade of life; I am bad with resolutions, but I think to have the life I’ve always wanted, or at least some shade of it, I need to promise or otherwise pledge to myself that I will do better going forward at making good on the things I can effect, lest I wander in quiet desperation for another ten years.

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