As the world turns
I was at Volunteer Park in Seattle a couple of weeks ago, during one of our many beautiful May evenings here in our post-Mayan Apocalypse world, taking advantage of the cityscape and sunset to film a short interview for a project that I won’t mention because I’ll be mentioning it about a million times before August.
There I was, though, in this popular place, surrounded by the usual suspects – couples, young families with children, walkers and readers and listeners – and I remembered it well.
I spent some time in that park, a long time ago, when I was in my 20s and I lived in that area. The two young people who were filming the interview seemed mildly interested, so I elaborated on how, even though everything changes, in the particular section of the park we were in, gazing west, it looked exactly the same.
And it was funny to me, as I mentioned in that split-second (actually longer) that it takes for my brain to slam my mouth shut, that I’d been sitting in that same spot, many times, many years before. So many years ago, in fact, that it was…
…before they were born. Yeah. That’s gotta make your night, right there.
It was one of these young people (and by “young,” just to make it worse, I mean in their late 20s), a few months ago, who mentioned to me that he’d noticed that I’d been writing lately a lot about aging.
Since he’s shorter and lighter than I am, I grabbed him by the lapels, slammed him up against a wall, and said emphatically, “That’s because I’M LIVING IT, YOU MORON!”
Note: That was sort of a cinematic elaboration. I didn’t grab anyone by the lapels, or call anyone a moron, or even speak emphatically. Just trying to keep things lively.
I am, though. Living it. Living it, living through it, wondering what happened and how I got here, and wishing I could describe the process, even though better writers and wiser people over the centuries have tried and failed.
It will start soon, I told him, sooner than he thinks. Somewhere around here there’s a grainy video, VHS but now transferred to DVD (awaiting hologram technology), of me talking with my 2-year-old daughter, even then complaining that I was old. I was about to turn 29.
So that’s when it happens, in my experience. Suddenly it occurs to you that the world is moving in one direction and so are you, and that you won’t remain the same. Suddenly the number “30” looms, an eerie, grown-up number.
You can relax, though. Most of us swing through our 30th birthdays with theatrics and not much else. We’re still pretty much the same. We’ve got a good five years before all hell breaks loose.
My grandfather once told me that 35 was the ideal age, but he was old then and probably lying. In my experience, 35 was awful. This also seems to be the case in TV shows and movies I watch about 35 year olds.
It will take a couple years to get over being 35, in fact, and by then you’re already looking at another round number.
In the meantime, though, some things have already started to happen. If you’re a man and hair loss is in your future, this is when you’ll start to pay attention to that inevitability. There will be other signs, a creak here and there, a loss of half a step, a huff or a puff on a hill you practically ran up five years ago.
And if you’re a family sort of person, you’ve either started or you’re thinking seriously, as clocks tick and tuitions rise.
You may be spending a lot of these years holding tiny hands as you cross busy streets, imagining every horror you’ve ever heard of and coming up with a few of your own. Or you’re already doing parent-teacher conferences, sitting in tiny chairs and feeling as though you’re in the worst job interview of your life.
And your job? You don’t like your job, you’re still too low on the totem pole, or you start seeing yourself in the office guys who are 20 years older and look worse. And you’re probably still paying off student loans.
By 40, though, as rough as you think it’s going to be, things have settled. People give you parties, as one by one you and your contemporaries slip out of your 30s, and this is the time when you carefully start re-evaluating your life and buying a ton of exercise equipment.
And you’ll get a lot of use out of that equipment, which makes an ideal place to hang the clothes that are too small for you, because that also will happen.
But don’t sweat your 40s. That’s what they’ll be, too: Your 40s, whether you’re 42 or 47. And that’s because you’re not 50.
And 50? Now I’m pretty much out of scenarios, although everyone I know who has hit the Five-Oh in recent years seems to have found contentment, and even surprises.
At the age of 53, a young guy asked me to be in his movie, if you can imagine, and here I am 54, a couple of months away from finally filming, surrounded by passionate and energetic people who are a lot younger than I am.
Although, I’m not going to talk about that yet because, as I said, it’s probably going to come up.