I turned 40 last year. To be honest, the whole experience was far less traumatic than I thought it would be. No black balloons, no aches and pains, no feeling that my life was ending. I ate Chinese food and went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The whole experience was nothing like I had pictured in my mind.
I felt like a relatively young 40. I was still in good health. I wasn’t on any major medications of any kind. I was physically active. I had a pretty decent idea of what was popular in the culture, so I was able to fit in fairly well with younger people. The only tip-off might have been the white hairs in my beard, but I thought those actually looked kind of cool, so I didn’t mind so much.
Something changed this year, though. There was something about passing 40 that seemed nearly more dreadful than reaching it. That wasn’t all, though. While I stayed physically active and maintained a good weight, my body was occasionally hinting that it might need more care than I was giving it. I found out I had some bone spurs in my lower back, which meant returning to the chiropractor on a regular basis. I would still occasionally feel pain in my quads, which I injured playing softball a few years ago. I would get shin splints if I tried jogging. I wasn’t falling apart by any means, but chinks in the armor were beginning to show.
I also noticed I was having to explain my references to the younger people I work with more often. On the flipside, they were mentioning more things I had never heard of. In my estimation, this kind of thing shouldn’t be happening quite yet. More and more of my stories were beginning with the words “Back when…”, and most of the people I was talking to weren’t even old enough to have a “back when.” As hard as I tried to stay on top of what was new musically, I found myself turning more and more to my iPod, which is largely filled with songs from the 1990s. I would see “celebrities” on television and wonder who the heck they were.
Most of all, though, I began to notice a lack of enthusiasm for certain things. Granted, part of this could have been caused by my depression and attempting to regulate my medication for it, but I felt a certain tiredness setting in. For the first time I can remember, I looked out the window this spring and didn’t want to go out and mow the yard. That chore is usually like a fortress of solitude for me. As much as I enjoyed getting my bicycle out and riding it again, I nearly had to drag myself out the door to do it. I found myself having to be more and more diligent to keep myself from sliding into the cold, gray area of just not caring that much about anything.
That is a part of getting older, though, isn’t it? You have to work a little harder to maintain things. You have to adapt to your surroundings a bit more. You have to adjust for limitations. You have to become comfortable with the fact that you don’t know the name of every member of every new band or have never watched the most popular video on YouTube. You have to realize that sometimes not caring can actually be a good thing. Yes, you get old, but you somehow learn to do it gracefully.
So I will mark this down as the year I got old. Somehow, though, that doesn’t sound so scary to me now. It happens to everyone sooner or later. And that may not be such a bad thing after all.