Today, April 16th, is my birthday. And I don’t care what anyone says. Your birthday always feels special, no matter what your age. Even if you didn’t plan anything special. Or if you’re at work on your birthday, which I am today.
Last year I wrote a reflection article on turning 40, “40 Isn’t ‘Over the Hill,’ But Death Does Move in Next Door.” So why not do 41 also?
Forty-one isn’t exactly a milestone year like 40. At this point in life you start to only celebrate in ten-year increments. But like my article last year mentions, death does move in a little closer. Now it’s out there watering its grass, waving to me. It hasn’t asked to come over for a barbecue, or tried to borrow anything yet. But I’m sure that time will come.
Getting older past 40 is like walking around with a sniper targeting you, not knowing if the guy will pull the trigger, or turn his attention to bigger fish. And that’s because you’ve reached the Age of Sudden Heart Attacks.
Of course, people drop dead of heart attacks and other ailments all the time at all ages. But it’s kind of rare it happens to people in their 20s and 30s. It’s really your 40s when you start hearing about it. Even though I’ve been careful and conscious about my health, stayed in shape, maintain a good diet, and avoid health-busting vices like drinking, drugs, and smoking, and don’t have a family history of early heart attacks, it doesn’t mean I’m not in the crosshairs of that Sudden Death Sniper Bulls-Eye.
But I’m not going to sit here all preoccupied with death, like in my turning 40 article. I’d rather spend the time reflecting on things. Not just “getting older” reflections, but reflections on life in general.
So here they are, by category.
I’ve avoided the black hole of marriage or a long-term committment at this point largely by choice, but also by the nature of my location and occupation. I work in a rural area in a position related to the energy sector. Not exactly the most conducive environment to meeting people, much less finding relationships. Where I live is where relationships go to die.
Though lately, that seems like almost everywhere. Even in major cities and denser population areas, it’s become problematic to find a long-term partner for everyone. People get married later, start families later, or don’t even start ones in the first place. And half or more of those that do end up divorced or in bad relationships anyway. I’d like to think I’ve dodged the bullet of a nasty divorce or failed marriage, but the reality is I actually have a lot of respect and optimism for the institution itself. I refuse to give into cynicism as so many do nowadays, dismissing the idea of a long-term commitment as some silly pipe dream. Even seeing a lot of people in my family go through the tortuous drudgery of divorce, I won’t give up hope in the practice itself.
It’s certainly not too late to find “love” at 41. But I maintain that the most ideal time to do so is in your youth. As in late teens or early 20s. Even as young as 16. Call me a romantic, but I’d always wished I could have met someone special as a teenager, and then been able to spend my life with that person. It may have been my Christian upbringing (I’m an agnostic now), a juvenile fantasy, or just my own naivete that made me long for that, but not being able to find someone when I was in that age group remains a disappointment.
It’s not as if modern life helps any in that department. Most people would scoff at the very idea of teenagers staying together past high school. Or even in college. The world wants young people dedicated to corporate needs. It brainwashes them into attending college for mostly worthless degrees, then advanced degrees, to find jobs that many don’t even find meaningful anyway, so they can buy shit they don’t really need. The Western world may have its technological wonders and materalism, but it’s a callous, heartless place. You don’t see it when you’re young — you don’t see how mindlessly the world wants to suck you in to become just another consumer cog. I see so many young people today just get swept up on the conveyor belt. They don’t realize that colleges are businesses first, that are more than happy to stick you with an enormous debt you’ll be left paying off for years. They don’t care about you. You are just a number.
It’s a tragedy, really. So many young people trading in some of the best years of their lives for a worthless degree, tons of debt, poor job prospects, or an unfilling job anyway. Just to overpay for an apartment, or even be unable to afford a house. Society expects, even encourages, young people to screw around. Enjoy a few flings. Not to be concerned with finding a serious relationship because who cares. But the truth is you don’t have as much time as you think. And high school/college are generally your best years to find someone with whom you are compatible. It only gets tougher as you age. Mistakes begin to compound. And it’s harder and harder to meet people you connect with. Then there’s all the energy expended on finding a mate. Trust me, it’s not something you want to do in your late 20’s or 30s. It’s really best to do that as early as possible, then build from there. Before it starts to feel more like a business transaction. But I suppose there’s no stopping the social trends in the West.
Money/Finance/Getting “it” done/Etc.
This is an area I’ve focused on a lot in recent years, and I’m proud to say I’ve made some good strides. The stock market crash of ’22, the crypto winter, and some learning experiences in a few trades have set me back. But I’m back on track. Even if the economy undergoes a recession this year or next, I’m still on the upward trajectory.
I still have zero debt. No mortgage. No credit cards, except one I use for a few subscriptions that I pay off every month. No back taxes. I took the Dave Ramsey approach to all of my student loans and other debts years ago, and now I’m a giant zero in that department. Which is exactly what everyone should do. I don’t accept the idea that we have an equity crisis in this country. Most financial problems are self-inflicted, the result of bad choices, or due to tragic health events. Not because Jeff Bezos and others are “too rich” or some crap. Generally speaking, if you don’t have children out of wedlock, and can manage to finish high school, you’ll stay out of poverty. You may not become rich, but you’ll survive. And even if you can’t finish high school, there are so many free educational sources on the internet or in your local library. There are tons of government programs and loans for college or assistance. Everyone gets stuck in a bind here and there. I’ve been there myself. But there are many tools to work through any issues you have. Much of the poverty and crime you see is due to drugs, alcoholism, poor culture, or mental illness, not the “evil capitalist system.” The capitalist system is what enables welfare and other government programs to survive in the first place. I’m not against having a social safety net. But I do believe that people need to try their best to pilot their own lives.
As I’ve mentioned before in other articles, I absolutely detest the middle-aged pot belly look that so many dudes seem way too comfortable having. We have an obesity epidemic not just in this country, but globally, in many developed countries. The older I get, more of a premium I put on having a healthy diet and staying fit. I don’t mean you have to be jacked. But you should have a proper BMI for your height. You should be able to feed yourself properly without having to run to the fast food place on the corner. I find myself increasingly disgusted and filled with contempt toward the increasing number of irresponsible and slovenly fat asses who take up more and more space. Especially young people. How is it okay to not even be out of your teens and both your ass cheeks are sticking out on either side of your chair? I understand a 50-year old mother of three not having the best body shape. Or an older guy with lots of responsibilities. Fatness is sometimes justifiable. But if you’re young and in the prime of life? Totally unacceptable.
Many people just don’t realize or don’t care about the health hazards that obesity and a poor diet can cause. Diebetes, joint problem, heart disease, etc. Fatness has become socially acceptable. And if no one else will say it, I certainly will. That’s fucking disgusting.
Which brings me to one very positive benefit of getting older — you care less and less what others think. You become more concerned with obtaining and speaking the truth. Traditionally, it was the job of the elders in the tribe to impart their wisdom, or at least provide a more mature perspective. But no one listens to anyone outside their social media echo chamber, which is dominated largely by political and social activists with their own axes to grind. I’m not an elder yet. I’ve got a ways to go. But I’d like to think I do a better job now of thinking things through than I did at 20.
As I write this, it is almost exactly 41 years ago to the second that I was born. It’s been a fast four decades and one year. If I’m fortunate to get another four decades and one year (or more), I’m sure they will go even faster. I guess now’s the time to think of what I’d say to my younger self. What amazing “words of wisdom” would I impart? I’d say to my younger self to worry less about what the world wants from you, and more about what you want, and what will make you happy. I’d say to not be afraid to prioritize love and relationships, even it puts you “behind the curve.” Fuck that curve. I’d say that there’s a brief time when everything is light and magic, and afterward it starts to become increasing shades of dark. Especially when you’re alone. That the world wants to isolate you, and put you on the hamster wheel, so you can keep buying junk. But that’s really no way to live.
And I’d say happy birthday.