When I was younger, I was sorta convinced that I would never grow old.
I mean, I knew I’d age. Twenty … 23 … 27 … (gasp!) 30. But I’d never become my parents, because, well, I don’t know. I just wouldn’t. Somehow I’d stay young. I’d maintain. I’d defy aging and remain eternal.
But now, as I approach 40, I acknowledge the inevitable decline. When I was in high school my good friend Jonathan Powell used to say, “Life ends at 30.” He later extended it to 40. Fifty, inevitably, will follow. I see the wrinkles. I feel the bones creeking. I’m about to take a seven-mile run after I type this, and it won’t be as easy as it once was. Hell, it probably never will be.
I digress. Two days ago I attended a BBQ of my classmates from Mahopac High School, 1990. We gathered in a backyard, cooked meat, gobbled on chips, downed beverages (no soda for me—coming on a week). I looked around, and I took in how times had changed—for all of us. Marriage. Kids. Divorce. Re-marriage. Jobs. No jobs. Houses. Apartments. Cars. Mortgages. I recognized the faces, but they were mere shadows of long ago. Lines run deeper. Veins seem more apparent. Fat has replaced muscle. Reality exists where once there was hope.
And yet … it wasn’t depressing. It was joyful. Beautifully joyful. Because, even as time moves on, time can also stop and rewind. With conversation. With smells. With sights. For a couple of hours, I was 18 again—but without the peer pressure and social awkwardness. These were the people I’d grown up with, but, really, these weren’t the people I’d grown up with. We are all wiser. More experienced. More understanding. The stupid stuff that once divided us (cool v. uncool; smokers v. jocks; etc) no longer exists. It’s gone. Poof. Not here.
So while I can do without the back ache, I’ll take 39 over 18.