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Age ain’t nothing but a number (but it keeps getting higher)

I’ve been thinking about age a lot lately. I’m going to be 39 next month and it’s bothering me. And it bothers me even more that it bothers me. I don’t feel old (most of the time) and I don’t think I look old. Most of my parts are roughly where they used to be 20 years ago, and I don’t think my face shows too much wear and tear (thank god for good skin care). And I do feel a little smarter, a wee bit wiser. I definitely don’t want to be 19 again—or even 25 for that matter. But I’m hung up on the number. 39 may as well be 40 and, well, it’s all downhill from there. Isn’t it?

I know—40 is the new 30 and all that bullshit, but there are a few inescapable facts about getting older. Last year when I was looking for a new job, my friend Chris (who is the same age as me — but a guy) told me that it was good I was looking to make the change then because it’s harder to switch careers or even find a new job when you get closer to 40. At the time I thought that was crap, but now I’m not so sure.

I spent 16 years in my previous career and I was comfortable doing my job and I think I was pretty damn good at it. Not only did I end up switching jobs last year, but I switched careers, and although there are a lot of parallels and a lot of my skills transfered over, I feel stupid more often than I’m comfortable with. I’ve had some down time at work and I’ve been spending it teaching myself things like Photoshop, InDesign and CSS. I feel like I’m playing catch up sometimes. InDesign wasn’t too hard because I have years of Quark behind me, Photoshop was a challenge just because I’ve never had to use it before and CSS, well, I want to bang my head on a wall. I know I’ll get it because I’m not dumb, but I don’t feel like I learn as quickly as I used to. The good news is, the things I’m learning now are things I want to learn, so that part does make it easier.

But there are other things as well. There are a couple awesome stations on Sirius radio that I listen to quite a bit. One is First Wave, which plays all that great New Wave music I listened to all through high school. The other is Hair Nation, which is full of great hair bands like Motley Crüe and Poison. They even throw in some Guns N Roses for good measure. When I was driving home tonight First Wave played “Doctor! Doctor!” by the Thompson Twins. Earlier in the day I heard “Girls on Film” by Duran Duran. I realized that both of these songs came out in about 1982 or ’83. I remember buying both of these albums when I was 12 or 13. This music qualifies as Oldies to 13-year-olds now, assuming they’ve even heard of them. Hell, even “Appetite for Destruction” by GNR came out in 1987—the year I graduated from high school.

I had my 20-year high school reunion last year. I didn’t go. I went to my 5-year reunion and thought that was weird enough. The guys who wouldn’t give me the time of day in high school, the football players and popular guys, were already sort of paunchy and old as if their best years were behind them. And they might have been. I didn’t feel like I really hit my stride until college.

However, at 39 I’m too old to go to the Olympics. And I missed my goal of being an editor in chief by 35. Assuming I live to be 78, I’m officially middle-aged. When I go clothes shopping I actually wonder if I’m dressing age-appropriate. (Is that too young? Too cool? Will I look like I’m trying too hard?)

It’s not like I’m sitting around moaning about my age all the time. I’m not discussing my aches and pains with anyone who will listen like my parents do (although I should be so lucky: My dad will be 80 this year and my mom will be 76. Both are extremely mobile, travel quite a bit and seem to have most of their marbles). But I think I’m taking stock of my life more. I’m looking back at the paths I’ve taken so far and I wonder where I’m going next. I want to make sure I haven’t “peaked” yet like those dolts from high school!

The good thing about getting older is that I don’t care as much about what people think. I have a slightly healthier body image. I’m more confident. I’m less shy. But I do feel like there’s more I should be doing and there’s definitely more I could be doing, but I don’t always have the energy to do it. I want to learn more, I want to spend more time with family and friends. I want to travel more. I want to love more (yes, Bill, you have that one in writing). And I feel like maybe I’m on the verge of doing some great career-wise. I don’t know what it is yet, but I am definitely feeling more creative. More willing to try new things. More willing to take chances.

In the meantime, I’m going to stretch my aching back and take a nap.

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