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When I was younger I was led to believe that 40 was old. Sometimes I feel a bit old, but it’s a good old. Old in terms of a certain kind of temperament which makes loud music seem annoying, too much rich food seem like excess and a quiet evening at home followed by a 10:30 bedtime seem like an ideal Saturday night.
Which is fine, because I’ve felt that way about such things since I was in my 20s. On some level you are who you are no matter how old you actually are. I don’t, however, feel old in the ways that matter.
Today, on my 40th birthday, I weighed in at 180 pounds, which is the lightest I’ve been since before I ceased growing at age 15. It’s amazing what cutting out excess sugar and carbohydrates does for a 40 year-old body. It’s amazing what moderation – a little bit of good whiskey or wine instead of a lot of cheap beer – will do for one’s spirit, body and soul.
Today, on my 40th birthday, I am preparing to get on a plane to New York to cover Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game for NBC. I am working a job that is exactly what I want to do and that, as such, is not truly work. I didn’t think this would ever happen when I was 35 and I wouldn’t dare dream of such a thing when I was 30. But I’m doing it and I still pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.
Today, on my 40th birthday, I will greet my waking children with more vigor and alertness than I did when they were babies and I was in my early 30s. Unlike then I know what I’m doing now. I know what they need from me and know that I am capable of giving it. And I feel like they realize this too. They are my children and I am their father but they are also my best friends. And for all of the adversity the past couple of years has thrown at us, we are making a wonderful life for ourselves.
Today, on my 40th birthday, I will see my parents, who live close to me and remain close, and I will speak to my brother who lives far from me yet still remains close. I know so many people who have complicated relationships with their families yet, here I am, at age 40, closer to them than I was when we all lived together as a I grew up.
Today, on my 40th birthday, I woke up next to a beautiful, smart and thoughtful woman who cares for me and understands me and knows that, no matter what life throws at us, she can talk to me and I can talk to her and that we’ll make sense of the world together because we trust each other and love each other and yes, goddamn it, it really is that simple if you let it be.
Today, on my 40th birthday, I hear the music and language of young people and I see their styles and their problems and, rather than feel threatened or superior, I take comfort in knowing that there will always be youth and that they provide the fuel that drives us forward.
Today, on my 40th birthday, I likewise see the old, what they’ve made of this world and how they face their twilight years and, ultimately, their oblivion. I understand that I will one day be where they are. This causes me to carry less anger and resentment for my elders than I have harbored in the past and, somehow, brings me a strange sense of comfort. I neither lament the passing of time nor pretend that time does not march on.
Today, on my 40th birthday, I own all of the miles on my odometer. I look forward to what is left of my hair turning gray and my body growing tired. I know I am getting older and will one day die. But I also know that will not happen for a very long time and that between now and then I have a lot of life to live and a lot of things to do. That I will plan and strive and fight and live like a man who still has much left to do and prove.
Today, on my 40th birthday, I am at greater peace with myself, my life and my world than at any time I can remember. I feel like I can see for miles in any direction and that I can conquer any problem that comes my way no matter how big it is.
Years may give you wrinkles, a bald head and aches and pains. But years don’t make you old. You only grow old if you let yourself. By losing your enthusiasm, your curiosity and your ideals. By becoming someone your younger self would have hated. By that measure I don’t feel old at all. And I feel very happy to be 40.