EDITOR'S NOTE: This was originally published on 27 September 2003, but Time Goes By did not begin regular publishing until the following March. There is little point in this one archive listing for September 2003, so I've stored it here. It is the first entry.
I posted this on my fotolog today about turning 40:
I had hardly noticed 30; 40 was the one that horrified me. I spent my entire 39th year boring friends with unfunny jokes about my fear of this impending black day. Then I read the card from Jim that accompanied the 40 perfect tulips I found on my office desk that morning. (The card said, “See how lovely 40 can be?”)
And Yolima asked, "How does 40 compare in retrospect?"
Looking back, I got sucked in by cultural attitudes about hitting 40, and I should not have.
One of the things that’s nice about getting older is that I’ve experienced enough not to be afraid very often anymore. I like that; I like knowing how to handle pretty much anything that comes along. I also like knowing that there aren’t many decisions, beyond putting a gun to your head, that are irrevocable, and that saves a lot of dithering.
There are things too that I don’t need to do anymore. I long ago proved to myself that nothing much happens past midnight except people get drunker and more boring, so I may as well go home early and get a good night’s sleep.
Time was I believed I needed to listen to all the latest music. But popular music really was better from the 1930s through the 1960s, so I haven’t missed anything much worth hearing since I gave up music radio about 25 years ago. And when it is any good, it bubbles up enough that even I become aware of it.
A paradox of getting older is that as I have less time on earth, I don’t feel so rushed. If there is something better to do today, I can clean house tomorrow; the dirt will wait for me. If I don’t get to the movie when it’s in theaters, I can rent the DVD later.
In the US, the biggest problem with getting older is that the culture does everything possible to force us to deny aging, or at the very least to not inflict it on the young. Television and magazines are awash in commercials for wrinkle creams, sexual aids and arthritis treatments. Older people are portrayed in TV and movies as mostly dotty old fools and that irritates me. Age discrimination in the workplace is rampant, and you have not lived until a 25-year old vice president asks in an interview, “And what are your life goals, dear?” American culture is pretty much entirely designed for the under-40 crowd, but that’s a rant for another time.
On my birthday each year, I set aside a little time alone to take stock, see where I’ve been in the past year and where I think I might be going in the next. Always, I have learned new things, grown in some small ways, and am generally more comfortable in my skin than I was the year before.
Best of all, I’ve lost my concern with what I look like. If there were any remnants of that, my fotolog has erased them. As I look back on the old photos to prepare them for the flog, I can remember disliking this photograph, thinking I looked ugly in that one. Now I rather like what I looked like then and only regret that I wasted so much time lamenting that I was not one of the great beauties of the world. I looked just fine – and I still do.
So, Yolima, although I didn't recognize it then, 40 was pretty good, and 62 is even better.