47, huh? That’s one of those totally irrelevant birthdays that you pretty much just ignore. No milestone, no novelty balloons, probably not even a cake, just you and maybe a loved one out for a nice dinner and home and in bed at a reasonable hour. You could just be easing up to the halfway mark of your life (hey, Grandma has made it to 90!), but more likely than not, you’re sort of thinking about how life is slowing down, and how you need to adjust pretty much everything in preparation for the years ahead.
This past year has not been your best. Memorable for prolonged illnesses and a traumatic event that tipped you onto a path of anxiety, 46 was mostly a year to recover from and hopefully forget, not one to note in any way.
But let’s face it, Self, even at your most depressed and anxious, you still have a fiery spark of optimism. You’re hanging in there because you live life by the motto “that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. You like being angry because you see it as an impetus for change.
Well change is ahead, my friend. It’s happening whether you like it or not, so you might as well get on board and make the most of it.
Like everybody else in the western world, I remember where I was on the morning of September 11th, 2001. Like everyone else, I spent most of the day glued to the television, crying. Unlike everybody else, I got dressed up and went out to dinner at a local restaurant… to celebrate my birthday.
It’s been an ongoing joke through most of my adult life that my birthdays always suck. They just do. Many of my friends abandon me for the Toronto film festival, and plans have a tendency to not work out – like the time Greg and I planned a day at a museum and a nice restaurant for lunch, only to discover that both were closed. Last year, we were supposed to go see KISS at an outdoor concert the night before, but my allergies kept me trapped at home. So I woke up that morning in 2001 expecting my birthday to suck in some way. I just didn’t realize it was going to suck for the whole world.
Ten years later, I’m still not sure going out was a good idea. But we had a reservation for a dozen people and we didn’t really know what else to do. Being together seemed like a better thing than being alone. A few of us brought cell phones and throughout the sombre meal, phones would ring occasionally with news that another NYC friend was safe. A call from Carla to let us know she was home, but tired after walking to the Bronx from midtown. A shell-shocked Marcus, telling me that he had to walk past body parts on the ground outside his office near the Trade Centre, and hitch a ride back to New Jersey. Erika, who until only a month or so before, had been working at Deutsche Bank in one of the smaller buildings near the Trade Centre that collapsed from the force of the other buildings coming down, sat across from me, quietly shell-shocked.
Yesterday, I moved into a new marketing demographic. Now in the void known as the 40 – 49 market, I no longer hold the cachet of youth, but have not yet achieved the financial stability or respect of the baby boom. Essentially, I’m supposed to stop caring about being cool and hip and be fully ensconced in paying off my home in the suburbs, while contributing to a RESP for my 2.5 kids. I’m hoping this means advertising agencies will stop co-opting the music of my youth and will move on to early 90s bands such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana so I can go back to listening to the Cult and Modern English without picturing automobiles or cheeseburgers.
I’m not hung up about being 40. I spent the last year working up to it. “I’m almost 40!!” I’d declare when required to admit my age, instead of just saying “39″ and being done with it. I’ve had lots of practice getting it out there. Nor am I self-consciously starting to refuse to admit my age. That’s the one benefit to being festively plump – I look a good 5 to 10 years younger than I am.
No, as usual, my issues are more with where society says I’m supposed to be at this point in my life. At 20, being “alternative”, or “marching to your own drummer” is considered to be a phase of growing up. At 30, it’s a little odd, but there’s still time for you to settle down. However at 40, continuing to be a bit of a freak tends to take on new meaning, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever “settle down”, and be “normal”.