I find a lot of my thoughts lately focus on my age. I'm turning 35 in a couple months and a fairly round numbered age like that usually gets me thinking about where I am in life and where I am headed. This will be the third time around for this type of introspection.
It happened the first time when I was 25. At that point, I was in graduate school and just beginning to wade into the the deeper parts of my Ph.D studies. The fact that I was still in school seemed to surprise me. I originally entered grad school with the idea of getting a Masters and fully expected to be working and in some kind of long term relationship when I was 25.
I was 30 years old when it hit me the second time. This time my life simply felt stuck. I was still about 18 months away from finishing up my Ph.D and I was hating life. I was doing (more or less) the same things with the same people as when I was 25. The Ph.D process seemed interminable. I was going broke and spent the previous few years living with someone I grew to seriously dislike. In the final analysis, the idea of being 30 didn't bother me much... except that my life was aching to change, but showed few signs of changing any time soon.
This time around, well, I find myself taking stock of the changes in the last five years of my life and wondering what they mean. According to the timeline I set out for myself when I was 20, I'm running about 10 years behind schedule... not that it matters in the least. Yet, I find myself seeking out the contrasts between who I am now and who I was 10 to 15 years ago.
My first thought is to feel some wistful sense of envy for lost youth... mostly because I was 15-20 pounds lighter in those days. After getting past a sense of "I was young, the world was my oyster", I take the next step and realize how... stupid (from my current point of view)... things can be for people in their early 20's. Still picking the wrong people to date. Still looking just for all the "cool toys". Choosing "quantity" in experience over "quality". True, part of me yearns for the stronger sex drive that I possessed in those days, but that thought is alloyed by the realization that a) I had no sex life to speak of in those days, and b) my approach to life and to women at that time wasn't going to get me get me too many dates any time soon. Perhaps there is an occasional wishful sense that time during those years could be better or differently spent, but, hindsight is always 20/20.
No, I like who I am right now, by and large. I like where I am and who I am with. There is a sense that my appreciation of life is perhaps, more refined -- I'd rather spend an evening preparing food with friends for a dinner party than go to a loud club and drink cheap beer. I listen more to jazz than grunge or heavy metal. I still like a good amber ale or porter microbrew, but I'm equally open to a fine aged port or single malt scotch whisky.
I think that the only things that truly bother me about my life right now are the shape I'm in and my energy level. My life feels a little out-of-control right now, but I think that is because my life is changing in several important ways. Other than that, turning 35 seems to be a wake up call that says "give it up kid, you're finally an adult... no longer delusional about being a kid just starting out in your twenties... you're a grown up now, once and for all".
on 2003-09-18 at 2:30 p.m.
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