Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Past Deadline: Increments of 20

I seem to have trouble with increments of 20 – at least when it comes to age.

I remember struggling with the concept of turning 20: O’ woe and pity! O’ tumultuous time! O’ dreaded decade that no longer ends in “teen.”

“Ends in teen,” you might observe, rhymes with “Drama Queen.”

The 20 years between then and now have made a big difference in perspective. When turning 30 I felt slightly cross, but not nearly so melodramatic. At 40, instead of lamenting out loud, my approach was to try to pretend it wasn’t happening and to quietly mope.

At least there was less wailing and bemoaning and such. Quite an accomplishment, I suppose. (Yes, except now I’m writing about it in the newspaper.)

The Big Day was a few weeks ago amid of flurry of other 40-year birthdays that provided acknowledgment strategies ranging from ignoring it completely to moderate celebrations to full-blown rent-a-hall type of parties.

I celebrated by eating a lot of food at various locations. It worked out well – unless you ask the scale.

So what IS the big deal? I know, I know – “It’s just a number.” I also know that 40 is a mere half of 80 and two-thirds of 60 – I’ve been told by many people who have already reached those increments. (They were, I think, diplomatically trying to tell me to “Suck it up, buttercup.”)

Maybe 40 feels weird because it’s on the edge of something.

For example, by now I figure I should know what I’m doing, but sometimes I don’t. I keep trying to tell myself that life is always about learning, but I lack conviction.

Another example is the whole biological thing. It’s not that I actually want to add another short person to the family compound, but if I were to change my mind my body might not necessarily cooperate as well as it once (or twice) did.

I think one of the really big things about turning 40 is the feeling that you darned well better be doing what you want to do with your life because it is now “officially” (at least in my mind) much more difficult to change gears. So if I want to finally pursue that latent dream of become a brain surgeon or a talk show host in Australia, I darned well better get started – and now!

Yes, 40 is just one more reminder that I’m a grown-up, and that makes me feel a tad uncomfortable. For a long time I have been fairly content in the notion I am about 17. Now I think I will officially have to change that to 29 or thereabouts.

People say different things about 40. Some say it’s all downhill from here and that my body is going to slowly fall apart. Others say these will be the best years of my life. Still others say 50 is better because after that you no longer care what other people think about the things you do. Perhaps 50 is when you finally grow into your own skin – or does that ever happen?

Of course there are some huge perks to turning 40. The biggest one, near as I can figure, is that this year it will be so much easier to remember how old I am. Sometimes in my 30s I would lose track. Am I 37 or 38? What the heck year is it, anyway? So, yeah, since that big ol’ four and zero are hovering in my subconscious, it should be pretty easy to remember my age – at least this year.

Another advantage is the joy you can get when you spring your age on an older person who’s not expecting it. For example, I was at an event recently where I encountered one of my elementary school teachers, who doesn’t look a day over 50, I might add. The subject of this silly milestone birthday arose. Her mouth fell open. “You are not!” she said. Of course that probably has less to do with how I appear and is more about how young she feels.

Other advantages to turning 40 include...um...well....

I might have to get back to you on that. I’m sure in another 20 years turning 40 will have seemed like a breeze.
Published in The Perth Courier, Oct. 14/10

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