Monday, February 04, 2008

Let's Do The Time Warp Again

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. Being unemployed seems to encourage that rather nasty activity. I start thinking about age and time. And I usually have some disturbing realizations.

I remember when I turned 20. I was a tad upset because it was the end of my teen years, but I was also excited because in another year I'd turn 21 and could buy booze, a decision I'd regret a few decades later.

When I turned 25 I recall being a bit depressed because I was a quarter of a century old. It sounded ancient. But I was young and wasn't sure I was even aware of how young I really was. My eyes were focused on 30 and I dreaded it. I wanted to milk the life out of my 20s before my youth would magically vanish a few years down the road. And I had no concept of life in my 40s or beyond. I knew it was out there somewhere but so very distant as to not be worth pondering.

As 30 gradually rolled around, it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. Not bad at all. I didn't feel much different than when I was 25. I didn't look much different. I would still frequently get carded for purchases of booze which I had been legally purchasing for 9 years. I might have been 30 but if nobody knew it, that was as good as still being 20.

The ease of turning 30 was probably helped tremendously by the fact that I met txrad that year. Being happy does wonders for negating the impact of age. Little did I know that falling in love AND falling into a career all at once tends to accelerate time. It's as if I'd spent my entire life on the slow incline of the world's wildest roller coaster and now I was approaching the crest. On that incline you have the ability to relax (somewhat) look out at the landscape as you climb ever higher and it is as if time has momentarily frozen. Big excitement lies ahead but for the moment life is tranquil aside from the clickity-clacking reminder of things to come.

And then the descent.

During my 30s I was so self-absorbed with work and the excitement of moving from a generic apartment filled with singles into a nicer older apartment where real couples lived, and finally into our first house, I was scarcely aware that six years were passing in what seems now like an instant.

And it hardly seems possible that I was only 37 when we moved into our second home here in Austin. And you could say this was about the time the roller coaster entered a series of exciting but gut-wrenching loops. Six advertising agencies later, here I sit in the same house, about to turn 48, unemployed, stressed-out, depressed, filled with anxiety and contradicting desires and emotions, and wondering what the hell it's all about.

Hitting 40 was not fun. Let me emphasize that. Aside from transitioning between jobs that year, I came to the realization there was now an entire decade between me and those beloved carefree 20s. Aside from two clearly memorable incidents -- living through the Northridge earthquake in 1994 and moving to Austin in 1997 -- that decade is blurry, and I often wonder what I have to show for it.

Somewhere along the way during all of this, my mother who has always seemed young and independent, went from her healthy 60s to being 84 and recovering from a broken hip. And yesterday, my father would have turned 86 had he not died at the age of 60. This is all very hard for me to fathom. I rarely get to visit with my mother, usually driving up for about 2 days once every 14 months or so. Each time I visit she always remarks that it's as if I only just left, then here I am again, and we pick up where we left off. I agree with that assessment but it's a strange thing and I don't understand it.

Here I sit, obsessing about the future, wondering if I'll handle turning 50 as easily as I turned 30 or whether it will be even worse than turning 40. One thing is certain: it seems like a pivotal time; a crucial moment to maximize every minute of a decade which will inevitably lead to the age of 60. But I can't seem to visualize that any more than I could my 40s when I was 25. But the excitement of this roller coaster in the post-double loop phase is both a relief and a disappointment. I just hope there are a few more exciting and unexpected twists and turns rather than a long and slow straight shot back to the point where I boarded. I am 47, and despite all I've said in this post, my mind still feels 20, if not by body.

Reflecting upon the years and and extending it to include the lives of my parents is even more startling. My father was born in 1922. In that year, having electricity in your home was a relatively new phenomenon. A majority of people in rural areas didn't even have it. Automobiles had only started rolling off assembly lines less than 10 years earlier. Portable radios were invented in 1922. William Howard Taft was president of the U.S. Taft was born in 1857 before the civil war even started.
(While I'm 48 it is entirely possible the president will have been born in 1961. I'll be older than President Obama.)

The electric guitar was invented in 1923. But stereo phonograph records were still a decade away. That is worth noting.

By the time my dad was my current age, it was 1969. The Rolling Stones were playing their infamous Altamont concert where a fan was stabbed to death by the Hells Angels. That summer Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Canned Heat, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, the Who, and a few dozen more bands were playing to half a million people at Woodstock amid a haze or marijuana smoke and LSD-tripping hippies. I was 9 years old.

Gee, and I thought a lot had transpired in my lifetime. I often wonder if my parents ever sat around and analyzed the years of their life as I'm doing now, or were they too busy raising a brat to notice how much had changed. I suspect they did think about it, and often.

And I think perhaps I resent the fact that my parents lived through so much more startling change and contrasts than I can perceive in my own life. I know they didn't think 1969 was a good thing. However, part of me would trade my life for one in which I had been born in 1922 and was 47 in 1969. And I'd be 86 today.

For some very odd reason, that seems a lot less scary than turning 50 in 2010.

Crossposted at Big Brass Blog

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