If you had approached 10-year old me and told him where he would be at 40, he probably would have laughed in your face. Because 10-year old me wasn’t remotely interested in the future, for what would pass for life after… well, 10. It was all about the present then, all about the moment, and I was living firmly in it.
Of course, though, as years pass, the focus starts to shift, probably because there isn’t enough wide open future there to ignore anymore. It happens like clockwork (no pun intended), the passing of the years a metronome ticking louder the further we advance into life. But at 10 there’s no way of knowing that things will change, no way to savor the moment because they are fleeting.
When I turned 20 there was an anticipation in the air, a sense that life was just beginning. There were still no bags under my eyes, getting out of bed wasn’t a creak and a groan, and I wasn’t hyper aware of the advancing years. In fact, I was looking forward to 21 with a vengeance, because it would mean I was an adult. My life wasn’t perfect but I could tell it was headed somewhere, which was a first for me.
I was keenly aware of the passage of time even then, though. I wasn’t like 10-year old me, wide eyed and innocent, anymore. Life wasn’t all about getting the physical things I wanted. I was also looking for happiness, for whatever would fulfill the hole that had already begun to widen itself in my life. I’m not sure if I realized back then that it was because I had no concrete relationship with my father. That would come later.
What I do remember feeling the most was that there was an untapped potential, but that I had no way of reaching it. There was possibility at 20 that I had never really explored before, a life that I hadn’t questioned. That was the tipping point with me and religion, with me and my mother, with me and the city of Philadelphia, as it turned out. Significant change was coming. I just didn’t see it yet.
Then change came, and with it a shifting of location, an acceptance of what I could not change, and the courage to change the things I could. I guess you could say it was similar to having an addiction because the more I realized it was bad for me, the more I couldn’t say no to it. And I mean everything. Between 20 and 30 was the time of most change in my life, even as things began to finally stabilize. It was the time for opposites to both be true, and for a little introspection. For the first time in my life.
At 30 I knew the world was changing around me. I was no longer the youngest person in most rooms, and I was keenly aware of that. When I told people I was 21 they laughed at me, and I knew I was supposed to possess a maturity I didn’t feel I truly had at that point. Others looked at me differently, not just as a young man, but the way I looked at my father when I was young. I was married, and I already had a child by then, so my priorities had done a 180. It was a transitional time, in every sense of the term.
And this past decade has been nothing short of a whirlwind, this experiment taking a few twists and turns along the way. I’ve had two huge happenings in my life, a few scatterings of focus shifts, and a whole lot of that earlier introspection, magnified to defcon 10. It’s like my 30s were a battle ground to see who was left standing at the end, and somehow I’m still here, looking at 40 candles on this cheesecake.
The word that comes to mind is blessed, but that’s from 10-year old, clear-eyed, innocent me. I haven’t been that… uncluttered in a very long time. Because life is complicated. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned over these past 40 years, that life is a series of moments strung together that create what we have before us now, for better or for worse. It’s decisions that have consequences, and repercussions, and often unforeseen side effects. But it’s also a beautiful thing.
Creaks, groans, and all.