Today is my birthday! At first I was going to ignore my birthday falling on a Monday and post about something else. Anything else really. The more I thought about it though, the more I wanted to acknowledge it in some way. It is going to be many years until my birthday falls on a day that a live post will go up somewhere so it seems like a good idea to take advantage of the timing. I’m turning 39 and I am struggling with it, but it is much better than the alternative.
I turn 39 today. I don’t like ages that end in -nine so this is not going to be a great birthday for me today. -Nine birthdays are the end of an era; they are the last birthday you have before you start a new personal decade. The other birthdays in a decade don’t lend themselves to introspection and self-realization quite as much as a nine will. A -nine birthday naturally lends itself to the idea that it is time to look back over the last ten years to see what you have done, or didn’t do, with your personal decade.
Your teen years are brutal, but full of life. This is the decade that starts off with middle school and ends for most in college or the beginning of your career. It is a decade full of firsts and milestones. Your first time driving, voting, and working a real job were probably all in this decade. Graduations, leaving your parents home, falling in love, and other comings of age were all probably in here as well. It is a decade packed full adventure as you first start to learn your way in the world. There are hardships as well, and every little issue seems like the end of the world. My teen years were full of middle school, high school, and a lot of odd jobs. This is when I learned what happens on third shift in big box stores and how hard working in a factory could be. I fell in love and had heartache. I learned that social interaction would always be a struggle for me and what being a nerd meant. It was the decade where I first lost friends and had to process death. While I no longer felt immortal, I still felt as if my life stretched out in front of me forever. Even when I failed at something it never felt final, I knew I would go back to college one day and find a career but I was also in no real hurry to do either.
Your twenties are when you first truly step out into the world on your own and find out who you really are. Your formative years are over and you start to live life completely as an adult. It’s the first time you are legally allowed to drink. For many people that is also the first time there is a clear and instant link between cause and effect, thus creating the life lesson that too much of a good thing is never a good idea. I finally graduated college, twice, and tried to enter my chosen field, just long enough to realize I chose the wrong one. My twenties were a decade for second and third chances. I fell in love and married my wife. We bought houses and I fell into my current career. I finally seemed to find the path towards the life I wanted. I wasn’t there yet, but I still felt like I had all the time in the world. Turning 29 was still rough because I realized that I had gone from being one of the youngest people at work to get a promotion or complete a big project to just being a person. The young modifier was gone. My adventures in my early twenties had cost me some youth, but I was happy with the tradeoff.
The thirties are different. To be fair, it seems like the first half of your thirties are just an extension of your twenties, without the fun age milestones. You continue to be a young adult with life seeming to have just started. Great things continue to happen. Great parties continue to happen, sure Thursdays are now a night for television and not the bar, but you can still go out on weekends. You finally learn that every little issue or problem is not the end of the world. You can navigate life easier as you gain a certain sense of perspective. Your family starts to grow. My son was born and changed my life. That alone will make my thirties a success, but at the same time I realized that I was getting older. One look around the Lamaze class confirmed that I was an older father. There were soon to be dads in the class that could have barely ordered a legal drink, and they outnumbered me. I was asked more than once if this was my second or third child.
When do you start to feel old? I can’t remember when it happened to me, but all of a sudden I am middle age. You go to sleep at 25 feeling young and full of potential, next thing you know you are checking a new box on your age range on forms. Time passed, sure, but it didn’t feel like much. Then someone calls you sir. You look at them and wonder why they are being so formal. You aren’t old enough to be a sir. You’re practically their age! Then you don’t get asked for ID at a bar. For weeks. And weeks. When someone finally does ask, you know it’s because they want a bigger tip not because they doubt your age. Then suddenly you look at the person driving the car that cut you off and wonder if they are old enough to drive. One day you look in the mirror and wonder if your forehead was always that big. Then you’re truly in your thirties. You don’t get old, but you are no longer young. You start to realize that young is other people. You are no longer the target audience for pop culture or trend setters. You are now the target for political junk mail and pharmaceutical commercials. Aches and pains that you used to laugh off are now the cause of doctor’s appointments. You start to wonder if you really should consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise, but you are also afraid of what they will say if you do ask.
I hate to be too negative on the blog, so I will stop now. It’s not an easy day, but it will pass. I think I am starting my mid-life crisis. I don’t really want a new sports car, but I could do with a new carbon fiber bike. That’s sort of the same thing in that I can’t afford either of them. I think I will continue to fall victim to my crisis this year by continuing what I started last year. I will continue to push myself to see what I can accomplish with cycling and obstacle course running and generally trying to be in the best shape of my life. But hey, if I happen to hit the lottery or get a big tax return there is always the local bike shop to help me find my next bike!
39’s a piece of cake. Life just keeps getting better! Enjoy it.
Joe, you handle getting older the same way you do life; with wit, tongue in cheek, humor, and the ability to laugh at not just life but your own fragility. Good post!
Enjoy your Birthday!
I remember 39. I didn’t want to be 39, precisely because I didn’t want to be 40 a year later. Funny thing. 45 should have scared the crap out of me this past October, for similar reasons. It didn’t, because my life is so much different now. I’m far more active. I don’t think I could have ridden a bike around the block at forty; forget about 62 or 100 miles. That’s where you’ve got most guys your age beat…you’re making your life better. And you started before you reached the next magic age milestone. Keep up the good work!
And have a very happy birthday! Enjoy!
Thanks Rick! I will be okay with 40, it’s just the nines that get me. I am actually looking forward to a lot of what is coming up this year too, like the 5 Boro Tour in New York City.