I never thought I’d be that guy.

Of all the stereotypical things that I thought I might have experienced, this is so far the weirdest. I’m really dreading turning 40.

I’m not someone who paid much attention to big birthdays before. My 18th? I was pretty much functioning as an adult already, or so I thought. My 21st? Not too interesting. 25? I was too depressed to care one way or another about a quarter century. 30? I had just started a new career and was too excited about life to be interested in a decade birthday one way or another.

Forty feels like a death sentence. Mostly, I think, this is because the great failures I’ve had in life could mostly only be fixed in youth. So 40 is not “old” in the sense that I’m about to drop dead or move into a nursing home, but it’s become for me a symbol of missed opportunities and the finality of life. I have reached a point where I can see what things are going to improve bit by bit and which things I’m probably stuck with, and the latter is hard to swallow.

When you’re 15 or so, the world informs you that you’re going through a lot of changes, that life is going to be very unsteady, that you’ll feel out of place and very alone, and that you’ll feel a terrible sense of urgency to change things that you really can’t. What they omit is that it continues for the rest of your life.

A month left of being 39, and for some reason I care a lot about that, in a bad way. It’s a puzzle.

5 thoughts on “I never thought I’d be that guy.

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff
    Hey! Forty was so long ago, I would look back on it with nostalgia if my memory wasn’t going…
    No, seriously. Don’t sweat it. In retrospect, I realise the midlife crisis is induced largely by this culture’s almost exclusive focus on youth. In reality, my life has done nothing but improve since then. I know who I am, have the experience behind me to justify my opinions, am the master of my trades, have a small but trustworthy group of friends, and look forward to my tomorrows with enthusiasm.
    Sure, there are things I will never do, mistakes that will never be corrected. So what? That’s all part of what made me who I am now, and it only makes me a card-carrying member of the human race.
    Now, if only I could remember where I put that card….

  2. I feel mortality creeping up on me too. Even though I’m just 32, I feel exactly the same way you do.
    I turned 30 in mid-boom and didn’t really mind it so much, as the future was so uncertain, and I had thrust my fondue fork into the cheese bowl of life.
    Now, the future looks like more of the same unsatisfying existence, only with less hair.
    Still, I’m learning to be glad about that. What if the boom had lasted a decade, and I hadn’t been forced to face some things about myself?
    This might not make sense, but now I feel discontented and frustrated and forgotten and without merit all the time, and basically happy all the time.

  3. I’ve been having a really hard time with the 40 too. I’ve had various chronic illnesses since I’ve been 7; had to drop out of my chosen career at 24; haven’t had a real job since I was 26. My agoraphobia only gets worse, and the more health problems I get, the worse my depression gets. I don’t see any of those things improving drastically any time soon. The thought that I probably have 20 odd years left is scary and frustrating. Some days I just feel like I shouldn’t start anything because who knows if I’ll ever get it done. I was a fat little kid and I’m probably going to die a fat old bag, and never look like or be the person I always hoped I’d be. Poot. =/
    I hope this feeling about the whole thing goes away, because I don’t think I can handle feeling this way until I croak. I don’t know why it’s suddenly a big deal. None of my birthdays (except 20) gave me any trouble at all.
    Anyway, I don’t want to make this all about me, I just wanted to say that I know how you feel, and am similarly puzzled about it. It’s really really aggravating.

    1. p.s. I have great relationships and friends, but it’s hard for me even now to feel totally secure about things like that, because I’ve lost so many people and opportunities in my life. I know intellectually that everything is good, but my base personality fears abandonment more than anything else, I think. Anyway, it’s hard. I’m sorry you’re feeling bad. You’re one of my favourite people ever, and I wish only good things would happen to you.

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