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Upcoming birthday

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Eighteen days from now, I'll be turning forty.

I normally like having birthdays, but I haven't been looking forward to this one.

I don't have the usual excuses for fortieth-birthday angst; I'm fairly happy with my life, I've got a good job and a nice house and a multiplicity of wonderful friends and lovers, and good weather and interesting hobbies, and so on and so on. I haven't become an internationally renowned best-selling writer and creator of virtual worlds, but those were never goals I really expected to achieve. So it's not like I feel like I haven't done enough with my life, or anything along those lines; I've got more or less the life I want.

And I have plenty of friends who've turned forty in the past few years, and plenty of others who turned forty a few or several or many years ago, and none of them seem to have been particularly damaged by the experience; they're all cool folks, all still as interesting and fun and smart and funny as they've always been.

So there's no good reason for the tension I'm having around this birthday, except, I think, my continuing feeling that I'm in my late 20s; I think some part of me feels that forty is the dividing line after which it's no longer okay to think/act as if you're younger. This despite the fact that I've had numerous excellent examples in my life of people well over 40 who've had no qualms about (for example) being silly in public. Again, no rational basis for this stuff, just wacky stuff lurking in my subconscious. (Also, I realize that nothing I'm saying here is terribly original or new. I happened across a sequence in one of Kam's comics the other day in which the protagonist turned 40 and said much of the stuff that's been going through my head; it's all pretty culturally standard.)

Clearly it's time for me to buy a red sportscar and take up with a ditzy bottle-blonde 20-year-old. (Of whatever gender happens to be available.)

Anyway. I thought about having a birthday party, especially since I haven't really managed to have much of a birthday party in the past few years, but I couldn't face the thought of twenty friends slapping me on the back and saying "So--you've reached the big four-oh!" and "How does it feel to be over the hill?" and other such witticisms. (Consider this a request not to say such things to me, either online or in person. I won't enjoy them.)

So I think I'm going to try to repeat last year's birthday week model, which worked well for me--spread out the celebration, keep it low-key, don't try to stretch my boundaries that week, do several activities I know I enjoy, see friends but don't try to squeeze in seeing everyone at once, etc.

Then again, maybe I'll go to Vegas and squander the last few hours of my thirties in a dissolute and decadent orgy of sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and gambling, then wake up in a gutter the next afternoon with my wallet and clothes gone and a headache the size of the great outdoors.

P.S.: Probably best to save the happy-birthday greetings 'til the end of the month. Last year I really enjoyed reading them in dribs and drabs over the course of that birthday week; I'd rather do that again this year than get such notes now and have nothing but ashes and sackcloth, and coal in my stocking, when the actual birthday rolls around.

12 Comments

I'll point out that there are many wonderful Cirque du Soleil shows in Vegas -- our favorite was "O", though that was also the one that involved hotel security and the cops (at least, the first time).


Can I meet you in Vegas? ;)


For me, turning 40 sparked a desire not so much to act like an adult, per se, but to try to be a more substantial, higher-quality human. That's a lifelong pursuit, I think, but 40 marked a turning point for me at which I felt equipped to make some strides.

FWIW, I feel like life's been trending upward since I turned 40. Also, still having fun.


I don't recommend the drunk orgy in Vegas part--I enjoyed it right up to the lung infection. :) :) But spread out, so you get a couple of events to celebrate, is definitely worth doing! (I just finished my last celebration this past weekend...)


I like the Vegas idea, although I am having trouble visualizing you wasted in a gutter. I don't really mind envisioning you unclothed, but I am having trouble with the rest. And since I see no especially good reason to add the less desirable elements to my visualization, I think I will be content with leaving them (and the clothing) out of my image.


If you spread it out over a week around home, let's do something ...


I'm about two years behind you, but I'm looking forward to turning 42 and getting a "42" t-shirt for my birthday. Maybe I'm too young to know any better, but I haven't noticed much change at any birthday. I tend to like ages according to the number. I think 38 is a bit bulky, while 39 is a nice product of two primes; 40 contains a cube, so it looks good too. I think we all have our own way of reacting to these numbers. Don't let it get you down.


If you think about the span of your adult life, say 25 to 90, or even 18 to 85, 40 is way closer to the front. Even if you think in terms of a traditional "working life" of say 25 to 65, 40 closer to the front (and I for one don't plan to "retire" even if at some point I stop going to a 5-day-a-week job).

I think of my parents, who at 65 or so are really just getting going in a lot of ways -- my mom has a career that's taking off, my dad (who runs a small non-profit) is also at the top of his professional game (and I can't see him retiring any time soon).

So from that standpoint I hope not to be too worried about hitting 40 (a couple of years for me).

The other way that being a "real grownup" is different than being in ones late 20s is that I think ones 20s are still a time to try out different "selves", while we expect that by 40 one has picked the person one is going to be. And I think there's truth in this, but I'm not really sure how it restricts a person's actual life -- I still feel like I could change my career, the way I dress, my hobbies, my taste in music. The color of my (remaining) hair. Whatever. I'm going to be keeping my wife and children, thank you very much, and that's a restriction in terms of some kinds of lifestyle changes, but so worth it (and not one that affects you, so...).

A few years ago I hit a rough patch in life and realized that some of the ways I was thinking and behaving were not in tune at all with my values. There were many things involved in getting through that, but one of the interesting exercises was trying to re-examine everything about my life. There are so many decisions that we make without really thinking them through, so I tried to step back and ask whether I really like the kind of music I think I like, and so forth, for all of the things I thought I knew about myself. In many cases nothing changed, but in some it really did. Maybe I should do that again every so often.


take up with a ditzy bottle-blonde 20-year-old

take pictures!


Hey Jed:

Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts about turning 40. I'd love to share your comments with my readers at www.turning40.net. Let me know.

Best,

Mark


Thanks for the comments, all!

Re Vegas: On a more serious note, I've never actually been to Vegas, and it doesn't really sound like my kind of place. I suppose maybe I'll go some day if there's a compelling reason, but I think this occasion isn't the right one for me for my first time in Vegas. Though Cirque du Soleil and meeting Fran there makes it more tempting.

Greg: Yay for trending upward and having fun!

Jaipur: Wow -- I had been planning to spread out my celebration over maybe a week, but the fact that you're still celebrating after a couple of months may inspire me to go for longer than I'd been thinking.

CJ: Hee! Anytime you want help visualizing me unclothed, lemme know.

Anonymous: That may be difficult, since I don't know who you are....

Reinie: Yeah, good point about not noticing change at any birthday. I don't change in discrete annual intervals either, of course. But rational points like that don't seem to have much effect on my emotional reactions. Thanks for pointing out the numbers stuff! Hadn't occurred to me that 40 contains a cube; cool.

Jacob: A bunch of good points; thanks. Especially a good reminder that we keep changing all of our lives. My father went back to school at age 50 or so to become a teacher; I think my grandfather did something similar; we can keep reinventing ourselves whenever we need to.

Catherine O: :) Will do. I've got the camera; now all I need is the 20-year-old.

Mark: Thanks for asking. Interesting site you've got, but I confess I'm having mixed reactions to it; it has the look of a spam blog. Its ads aren't as intrusive as most splogs, and the fact that you asked for permission to use my entry (rather than just taking it) gives you major bonus points, but it's not quite clear to me whether your blog contains any original content or whether it's all aggregated from others' sites. Lack of original content doesn't necessarily make it bad; just makes me a little wary. So I'll think about your offer, but best to hold off for now.


There's a software developer blogger named Eric Sink who I like a lot. He just turned 40 and has a good entry about it.


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