Today was intended to be different. It had been my plan to be about 14,000 feet above sea level in the San Juan Mountains right now, but this has been a strange year so far. Like many people out there right now, my plans have changed. Alas, chaos.
Today wasn’t going to be just about by birthday—I had intended to make this day an anchor point for me to jump from into a more purposeful future. More on that in a minute.
Let’s start with 42.
Now technically, my age is just a number—an arbitrary unit of measurement. The yearly increment has a become a convenience to measure important phantom milestones in the human lifespan, but we have to be careful not to let it dictate who we are, and especially who we have the potential to be.
Do you magically become an adult at 21 years of age? Is there a massive intermittent gear that has slowly been ticking towards a release that brings all the gears of the “adult” module into alignment? That would be pretty cool, but no, that’s not what happens.
At a young age, most of us are exposed to the concept of our “lives”. We learn that humans are born, they get old, they die. We also learn that there is a period of time at the beginning of our lifespans that we are completely helpless and need the assistance of other humans to survive. If we survive, we grow to be able to be caretakers for other helpless humans. We also learn that most of us, as we age, will return to a state of semi-helplessness where we must be aided by others.
We have become a global society. We have experience at our backs, thousands of years of data available to draw upon and make decisions about our future. Unfortunately, we’re not at the point where we can analyze the finest aspects of the human experience. You can’t measure every minute change in a person’s body, or mind, or experience and extrapolate the entire dataset of every human in existence to find the complex patterns of evolution and existence and chaos—not yet. We have to generalize. We have to make broad strokes and leave the detail for later. The global scene requires you to see the larger patterns, and so we have arbitrary milestones in our experience and analysis of the human experience. From infant, to toddler, to child, to pre-teen, to teenager, to young adult, to adult, to middle-aged adult, to elder, to deceased—we’ve compartmentalized the lifespan.
The trouble with the “milestoned” lifespan is that its simplification of the human experience can easily be taken as literal. Our world cultures complicate this further with other milestones tied to tradition. We break it in to chunks even further. School dictates its own milestones in the form of grades. We graduate pre-school now, and grade school, and high school, and college. There are bar mitzvahs, and quinceanaras, and sweet sixteens, and there’s a voting age, a drinking age, your twenties, your thirties, etc. You should be married with kids by thirty, prostate exams at forty, mid-life crisis at fifty, retired by sixty-five, wearing straw hats and sneering at kids through the blinds at seventy-two. It’s easy for us to have expectations derived from those milestones, and I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that people can be affected negatively by attempting to hold themselves to those milestones.
As of today, I’ve been on this planet for 42 years. Technically, longer than that. I’m made up of materials belonging to other humans, who existed because they consumed other materials derived from other organisms that subsisted on other materials that were derived from cosmic collisions and intergalactic explosions of energy and matter and bits of paper.
Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.
I have stopped writing at some point.
I supposed I’ve stopped a number of things at some point in the last few years. I tend to do that on occasion. I don’t like this direction I’ve taken. I miss writing. I miss the challenge of it. I miss the challenge of a lot of things. My life was once filled with forward motion on many fronts. I had become a mediocre virtuoso, the everyman’s renaissance man for the not-quite-so-motivated-as-to-find-narrow-focus-on-one-project-at-a-time set.
I would like to return to that forward motion. I’m not sure how I was pulled out of that routine, but I have a plan to return to it.
If I were to only live to be forty-two, my halfway point was twenty-one. I could have told myself at twenty-one, “I’ve lived half of my life … and that means I get to live that entire lifetime again armed with experience and direction.” I suppose now that I can do that again.
Let’s suppose I can live until eighty-four, forty-two is my half way point. I have lived an entire life already, and if I had died yesterday, I could honestly say I was happy with what I had done and what I had accomplished. If I can make it to eighty-four, I could do it all over again, armed with experience and direction.
I can live with that.
I can live for that.
Let’s start again with 42… and life, the universe, and everything all over again.