February 15, 2008

You’re as Young as You Aren’t

In spite of all of the gleeful optimism about youth and feeling young, no one accounts for emotions changing with age. The way one thinks is often directly hard wired to the body whether we accept that or not. Now in my forties (gulp) I no longer hop out of bed and begin my day with a reasonable amount of energy. I find myself opting for a quiet evening alone with my family rather than a jubilant night out partying with my wife and our friends. My body aches the next day after doing a lot of yard work, and that is after taking huge steps over the last year to get healthy and thin again. My point? You can’t stop aging and time.

You’re never as young as you think you are. I sailed through my twenties like a person who never had to look at his watch. My thirties brought huge change in my life as I became a family man. One marriage and two children later, I am a guy who was at the pointed end of a remark made by a co-worker the other day who observed: “Wow, you’re going gray.” That’s it. I’m officially middle aged. Not that I am surprised; it was bound to happen if I lived long enough. But, I no longer believe that “you’re as young as you feel.” If a ninety year old man feels like a seventeen year old, does that make him a teenager? How long does that last when he has the heart of a young adult but the prostate of a man almost a century old? My new philosophy is you’re as old as you are. There’s nothing wrong with that; but it took me almost four years to stop panicking about it, yet I can’t say I am entirely comfortable either.

Some guys go off the deep end when they have their mid-life crisis. They have affairs, buy sports cars, go on safaris and take up sky diving. I never did any of that; but I did have a bit of a crisis of identity. What have I accomplished? Where did I fail in life that I am not wealthy and don’t have homes all over the country? Perhaps these questions were immature, or silly; but, there are rich people in the world with houses in exotic locales. I'm just not one of them. In the end, I know what I did or did not do to get where I am; or, from the other side of the spectrum, to where I am not. My focus has shifted now to my children as they mature and need guidance in their futures. It’s no longer about me, and I cannot feel selfish anymore and lament about getting old. Am I as young as I feel? Do I really need to be twenty five years old again? What I need to do is grow up, if I haven’t done so already.

A while back, my wife and I took the kids to a family restaurant near our home. This is a barbeque style place with big plates of food and a gimmick where everyone can choose to watch different, big screen televisions hanging on the walls. The scheme is aimed at entertaining the kids, and we decided to go along with the idea for the night because our children asked to go there. It was fun, and settling into my accepted daddy role, I enjoyed eating with the family and I had no urge to go mountain climbing or ride all-terrain vehicles cross country.

We finished dinner and then climbed into the family car to pick up ice cream and then go home. A brand new Ford Mustang pulled into the spot next to us and a couple the same age as my wife and I stepped out. The man had a full head of gray hair, was wearing a sporty leather jacket, and looked like he was sucking in his gut. Along for the ride were two teenagers struggling to emerge from the backseat of the two door vehicle. We both watched as I had to wait for the kids to be clear of my car before I could pull out.

“Somebody’s having a midlife crisis,” I said, with a discreet finger aimed at the husband. “Look at that car.”

“I would say so,” my wife replied. “You’d think he’d at least get something with four doors.”

We both laughed, and I was finally able to put our sedan in reverse and then out of the parking lot to the main road.

“Think of the money he spent on that Mustang, and it looks like his children will be going to college soon.” I said. Then I turned to my wife. “You know, I had a midlife crisis, and all I bought were some stereo speakers and a new DVD player for the den.”

She looked at me and smiled. “At those prices, you can have one once a month, honey.”

You know, I’ve felt fine since then. I haven’t had a midlife crisis once a month as she jokingly allowed me to that evening. But, it’d be a nice excuse as my laptop is getting a bit slow and I need a reason to blow a wad of cash on a new one. But, I’m older and more mature now, less impulsive, and I can’t afford a Mustang. Not with two kids who will go away to college soon.

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