I was talking to a group of millennials the other day who were sharing a house a West Philly. I enjoy talking to millennials: the way they look at things and the pure entertainment value far, far exceeds the annoyance. But they were trying to explain to me that age is just a mental construct of the mind. I agreed, laughed, and moved on.
On the way home, a memory came back to me, a very old memory. Brian and I in his efficiency apartment in West Philly at about the time they were born. Brian was a student/employee at Penn attempting to make the adjustment from his bachelor of arts degree to medical school. I was just there with the tequila.
“Fishbowls, Tequila and the Meaning of Life” came out of that night–after the hangover. It is an essay that I still enjoy but never got published. Maybe I’ll post it if I can find it.
That was also the night, though, that Brian said something to me that has stuck all these years, through all those revolutions around the sun since. He said it seemed like I was living ten years for every one year everybody else was living.
Age may just be a construct, but there are also realities. By 30, I was an old man. At 40, I was ancient. Now with 50 inching closer, I am just tired. Exhausted. I think by Brian’s math, I am about 286? And winter is coming.
I just can’t drink tequila anymore. Brian set himself and his family up for life after grinding his way through medical school and then specializing in radiology. I didn’t do that bad for myself but I piled on those years. They weigh me down. I hurt.
I wonder, though, thinking about fishbowls and constructs. Am I old? Is this the winter of my life? Or am I like the oak, weighed down by a long, cruel winter? Am I just looking for some warmth and sunlight to sit in while I wait this out, see another few revolutions of this ball of mud around the sun? Or is there a spring in my future, where the sun will heat the ice and snow that has collected on it and the oak will shake off its weight and be ready for the next 286 years?
I don’t know.
I know that winter is coming, but, with the winter, the cap is back. The attitude got buried for a while but is slowly reasserting itself in the oddest of ways: my filters, for bad or for good, are disappearing. And a touch of the old swagger is back. There is a certain freedom, that you earn, when you can say things like, “I’m too old for this shit” and “I don’t give a rat’s ass.”
I don’t know, but I’m curious.
Is age a construct? I don’t think so. There are those realities. The greatest gift of youth is immortality. As we start to shed that immortality in our 30’s, those realities start to assert themselves.
I was enjoying myself too much to lecture them but I wanted to about a definite reality about age: compound interest, the first wonder of the financial world. Buy half the weed you are now and put the money into the right kind of fund and then forget about it. $16,000, at your age, will turn into over $2 million by my age. I’m screwed, They still have time.
There is a certain compound interest associated with living as well. It starts in your 20’s and can go either negative or positive.
Me? I’m just standing here enjoying the sunlight and the warmth on a brisk, fall day, waiting for the winter.