Over The Hill
When I was ten years old, I was given the impression that turning forty meant you were old.
I remember my fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Towler walked into our class on her birthday. She was greeted with a bunch of black balloons on her desk accompanied by a banner that read "Over The Hill." The other teachers gave her a hard time throughout the day. They joked about her age as if she were some appliance whose warranty had expired. Any day she would give out and have to be replaced.
Thirty years later, this distorted view of this life milestone has stuck with me, exacerbated by unrealized dreams and goals not yet met. Given everything that has happened in the last year, I do not want to join the demographic of "old white men." It felt all the more real when I inexplicably sprained my right ankle this week, causing me to clutch to the walls of my workplace for support like an old man at the nursing home.
To add insult to injury, the streaming music service I use suggested a collection titled "Essential Dad Rock." Included among the classic rock staples were bands I listened to in college (White Stripes, Whiskeytown, to list a few). I am a dad who rocks but does an algorithm believe I did not want to listen to any music created in the last five years? This is a frustrating notion when I an writing about artists who capture the attention of listeners half my age.
Last week, I spoke to a teenage musician and felt like the old guy on the porch. I liked his music. I believe that, on some level, I am determining what is cool to listen to. By turning forty, do I become unqualified to make that judgment call? Have I lost my credentials? Would a publication take my age into account for a future writing assignment? I am freelance, so who is stopping a magazine from discriminating against me because of age.
It is easy at this moment to dwell upon the moments in my life I regret. I wasted time chasing relationships that I knew would not work out. I let my insecurity persuade me that I could not do any better. I allowed the fact I was divorced convince me I was unworthy of love again and that fatherhood was something I would never experience.
What haunts me most is my mother. She passed away at 48 and I still mourn her thirteen years later. I think she would have loved her grandson. It seemed like she was never healthy. Because of this, I estimate that I have a good decade left of good health. I want to see my son graduate high school and become a strong and capable adult, but now that I am entering the same decade that my mother did before she died makes me think this won't be possible. It feels like time is running out.
Despite all this strong evidence that supports my ten-year-old notions of middle age, I don't feel I'm months away from being left on the curb like an old refrigerator. I found love and became a father, I am actually starting to feel like I deserve to be published. I feel optimistic about the opportunities ahead. These things are happening a little later than I wanted them to.
And in a few years when Beckett is sick of singing about the animals on some old man's farm, he will be turning me on to some great music that I will hopefully write about someday.
But yeah, I am getting old. I am going to be ok.