Forty Is Not Old- No Really It Is Not

Portrait of a sleeping cub

It is heading towards midmorning and outside the ever present blue skies are teasing me with thoughts of non work related activities. I try not to look out the window because I don’t want to be any more distracted than I already am.

Granted I am seated in a coffee shop where I am in the middle of a business meeting. Just across the table a man is trying to sell me on an idea that he says is going to make all of us very wealthy. All he needs is the opportunity to make it happen and it just so happens that he thinks that we can provide it to him.

I frequent these coffee shops on a regular basis but it is usually with one of the boys. We all have non traditional jobs, or should I say jobs that don’t have traditional hours. It is not unusual to find us here during the middle of the day during the work week. We are never alone. These places always have a steady stream of customers. Even during hard times people still need their caffiene fix.

The man is still talking but I am just barely listening. I already know what he has to say and where he is going with it. I came up with the concept. I get distracted again by a pair of legs in a black skirt passing by and I start wondering if it is like this elsewhere.

I am that rare native of L.A. and though I have traveled all over I can’t recall whether other cities had the same feel of people out and about during the middle of the work week. Does it really matter? Probably not, but this is how my brain works.

Two days later I am going to be back in the same seat but this time I’ll be hanging out with Max. Max and I have been friends since we were 13. We went to high school and college together and have spent more than a few hours hanging out. I am less than a month older than he is but with the dreaded fortieth birthday approaching those distinctions aremore important than normal.

We agree that age is just a number and that neither of us feel as old as the number sounds to us. I am not kidding when I say that my mental image of myself is of me at nineteen or twenty. Hard body, stomach carved and muscles rippling. Oh, and I can’t forget the full head of hair.

I wore it in a flat top or as some people called it a brush cut. If I wore the right color green t-shirt and jeans I was sometimes mistaken for being in the service. It happened a lot during the days prior to the first Gulf War.

Now I look at myself in the mirror and I see a different image. Still have a fair amount of hair, but it is a bit thinner in the front. If I flex I can see the cuts in my stomach, but there is no hiding the spare tire that has taken up residence there. The rest of the body more or less passes muster.

Brutal honesty says that physically I am not who I was, but in some ways I am not so far off. Some days I don’t care about it and some days I do. I miss the metabolism that let me eat anything and the ability to watch nicks, bruises and aches fade away ten minutes after they showed up.

But not unlike so many others who came before me I appreciate the wisdom and strength that life experience has brought to me. I know so much more about who I am and what I am capable of than I did then.

That is all part and parcel of why Max and I smile wistfully and agree that we are on the verge of conquering the world or falling off the edge of the cliff into the abyss. It is a bit ridiculous to be so melodramatic about it all but that is how it feels. The biggest difference between now and then is not the physical component but the responsibility.

In those days that we remember so fondly it didn’t matter whether we made a dollar or a million. Didn’t matter about so many other things because all we had to worry about was ourselves. There weren’t any children. No worries about where they were going to go to school. No worries about where we would live because even if we spent a week on a couch here or there it just didn’t matter. Sooner or later we’d have our own place and life would be fine.

But it is not the late eighties or the nineties anymore. Those moments of incredible freedom are gone. They feel like a different lifetime. We hardly remember who we were. Now we have who we are and it is ok. It is ok because we have no choice other than to make it ok.

Old Max and I are in agreement that every transition resembles a roller coaster. There are ups and downs. There are moments where you feel the car pulling you up a steep incline and you know that soon you are going to go hurtling down the other side of the hill you just climbed. Question is whether you’ll scream because you are happy or because you are terrified.

Nah, forty isn’t really that old, but I think that I am ready to get it over with. It is the anticipation that makes me crazy. It is the waiting for things to happen that makes me grind my teeth and furrow my brow. Those lines in my forehead were earned, but I don’t need to help make them any deeper.

A small yelp of pain/surprise comes from across the table. That guy is still talking and in the midst of making a point has managed to spill a cup of coffee on his lap. Something tells me that the meeting is going to be cut short. Maybe I will take advantage of this sunshine and do something active.

If nothing else those endless blue skies tell their own story and I think that it just might be time to try and find out what that story is.

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