If there’s one thing people generally complain about past around… ohhh… age 28 or so, it’s about getting older. You want to be older up until you are 20ish since there are certain milestones you will hit along the way that makes things in your life potentially better. When you are really young, being older means more freedom, getting to stay up later, etc. When you are 15, being older means 16 and the chance to drive or hitting 17 and getting into R rated movies all by yourself. 20 looks forward to 21 and rolling into a package store like the cock of the walk so you can buy your first (legal) 6 pack of beer.
Then you go through a few years where turning a year older isn’t too big of a deal, despite the lack of super cool achievement moments that age brings along. Roughly around 28ish, you start thinking about… GASP! … turning 30! Oh noes! Not much to look forward to there, right? That’s just the beginning of the slow, inevitable decline of all your mental and physical faculties, right?
If there’s one thing I’ve found is that I would take being my current 38 years and change over my 20’s almost any day of the week. I think in your teen years, the 20’s look like a golden time of being young enough to have energy to do 1,000,001 things, but old enough to have the means to do them.
I’ve also noticed 2 things that also change with age and I don’t think I ever came to fully appreciate them until hitting my 30’s.
The first is a true concept of what being a man is all about. I used to spend a fair chunk of time on forums related to weightlifting, strength training and so on and was utterly horrified at how some guys seemed to view being a man. It was all about machismo, posturing, getting in the face of others and chest pounding like some kind of silverback gorilla. It got to the point where I began spending less and less time perusing these kinds of forums because it was just so pointless and brain-numbing.
That’s being a man? Really? Truly? The ideas of: walking with quiet confidence; focusing on inner strength as the path to outer strength; saying what you mean and meaning what you say; acting with respect and integrity… these were all just lost concepts. There was such a lack of maturity in these views that I could only shake my head and then stop going to these forums all together.
The second thing is the notion of what it means to be “two-faced”. It’s something I notice people still doing a lot now, actually. Here’s what I mean: Person A really doesn’t care at all for Person B, but they travel in overlapping social or work circles. When Person B is not around, Person A doesn’t have great things to say about them, but might not really say that much about them outside of an occasional passing comment about how they don’t care for Person B. However, when Person B is around, they may chat with them and such in a fairly civil manner.
I’ve seen a lot of people describe that behavior above as two-faced and, truth be told, I probably used to describe it that way at one time. You know what though? That’s just being an adult. There are always going to be people in your life that aren’t your favorite, but that you will have to interact with on a semi-regular or regular basis. It’s not some momentous stand for your closely-held principles to completely ignore that person entirely or give them attitude when you do deal with them. That’s just foolishness. A huge realization of adult life is that you’re not going to have moments of orgasmic joy and utter fun every single moment of your day. You will have to do things you’re not crazy about and sucking it up to do those things with a decent attitude is a sign that you’re not a punk kid any more.
Now at 38 I get to stare 40 in the eye and I’m sure I will even look back at these years some day, shake my head and think “Wow… I really had no idea, did I?” about something or other. But for now, I’m just glad I’m here with a little bit of perspective and no small amount of hope for the years to come.