On Wednesday, I turn 47. I say that not because I’m looking for birthday wishes or for a 30GB iPod to mysteriously show up on my doorstep (though I would be no means turn one away, either), but because I find myself at a crossroad in my life. Yes, there’s no denying it; I’m no longer the young stud that I really only was in my fevered imagination. I am fully immersed in the recognition of physical limitations and diminishment that is part and parcel of middle age. Things hurt more and longer, and I can most definitely tell that I’m not 25 anymore. I tire more easily, my stamina (never the stuff of legend even when I was younger) has noticeably diminshed, and I’ve come to grips with the reality that women, especially younger women, no longer view me as a sexual being…not that they ever really did. Of course, being married, that’s not a complaint, just a recognition of reality. No one wants to schtupp a middle-aged man with thinning hair and an extra 20 pounds…except She Who Endures My Myriad Eccentricities, for whose adoration I remain exceedingly grateful.
At 47, I also find myself having to come to grips with the reality that I am who I am. Am I the person I thought I would be or the person I wanted to be? In some respects, no. In others, and perhaps the most important ones, the answer is an unqualified yes. I have a wonderful family, a loving wife, a comfortable if not opulent home, and three dogs. All of these things combine to give my life a richness that 10 years ago I’d never thought possible.
I’m fortunate to have a job that I occasionally enjoy, but isn’t exactly onerous. I’m good at it, but I seldom feel valued and I often find myself frustrated. That’s not my employer’s fault. After all, no one stands by my desk 40 hours a week holding a gun to my head. Sometimes I feel stuck in a good, but not great, situation when, truth be told, I’d much rather be doing something else. At times I feel like the living embodiment of of Henry David Thoreau’s prescient observation, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
I want to write, I want to make a difference, I want to change the world. Sometimes I wonder, though, am I getting to the point in my life where I’m too old to reinvent myself? Can I make a decent living doing what I really want to do at this point in my life? Or should I stick with a mediocre salary in a job that doesn’t really challenge me but provides me with a fair degree of stability?
What have I done with my life? What am I doing with my life? Will I be remembered for another more than drawing breath when I’m gone? Will anyone miss me when I’m gone? Have I done anything to make a difference? I could ask myself these questions and more all day long, and I’m still not sure I’d come up with decent answers. I suppose what I’m experiencing now is what most every thinking middle-aged male encounters at this point in life. As Emerson once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I find myself examining my life a lot these days, and I’m finding that while there’s no shortage of questions, there most certainly is a pronounced lack of answers. Such is life, I suppose; by the time you find the answers (if you can find them), it’s time to go.
I don’t know what the future holds; none of us do. I am looking forward to it, though- if for no other reason than it certainly beats the Hell out of the alternative. Where I am now is nothing close to where I thought I’d be at this point in my life, and I suppose that’s part of the fun. As one peels back the layers of one’s life to find what lies underneath, one discovers that life really is like a box of chocolates. The key, I suppose, lies in learning to enjoy what’s on the inside of each candy. I’m still working on that, and I’m trying to accept myself for what and who I am now…if for no other reason than that this is my lot in life…and it’s not so bad, if I do say so myself.
So, Happy Birthday to me…just don’t count on me blowing out any candles.