Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

On turning 42

Photo on 4-21-14 at 11.41 PM #2It’s 11:26 pm. In exactly 34 minutes I turn 42.

So, so, so, so weird.

Whenever I speak to college students, I try and tell them that the line from there to here is shockingly short. That time truly soars past. That you’ll be 42 in a blink.

They never seem to believe me.

Exactly 21 years ago—half my life ago—I was turning 21 at the University of Delaware. Armed with my driver’s license, at midnight I entered the Stone Balloon, did a ton of shots and, ultimately, vomited into a puddle in the parking lot. I was a man but, truly, still a kid. I knew nothing of real life; of hardships and death and taxes and mortgages and loving someone so much that, without a second’s delay, you’d surrender your life for theirs. I thought I was talented and important, and the world revolved around my daily exploits. If I asked about your day, it was because societal norms required I ask about your day. Did I care? Probably not.

Aging changes things. Entering yours 40s really changes things. You’re no longer thought of as young, even though there’s an internal fight to hold onto any lingering threads of youth. Wrinkles start developing. Gray hairs creep forth. Your back aches. Your speed diminishes. Vertical leap becomes less vertical. When you’re in your 20s, aging is something that happens to other people. When you’re in your 30s, you still think of yourself as being in your 20s. When you’re in your 40s, you start noticing things. Bad things. Scary things. The old people you once ridiculed (or at least didn’t understand) look less like foreign objects, more like your own future. You begin checking out the obits and noticing the average birth dates are creeping closer and closer to yours. I was a product of 1980s music. I was a piece of 1990s music. I was good with 2000s music. I’m, well, trying to roll with 2010s music—but with increasingly less success. The artists aren’t speaking to me as they once did. I’m not their target audience. Hell, a few hours ago we watched a TV show, Celebrity Wife Swap, that featured Coolio and Mark McGrath—two artists from my era who looked really, really old.

As, surely, do I.

People try to find the silver linings in aging. Some even say they love aging. I think they’re all on crack. I love being a father and a husband, and I’ve enjoyed an absolute dream life. But I also see why some young people perhaps feel compelled to look forward and then commit suicide (Note: I’m not contemplating this in ANY way). Aging ain’t pretty. We become decreasingly relevant and decreasingly necessary. Younger, smarter, cheaper replacements come along and push us aside. One day, inevitably, we’re obsolete and left trying to figure out how to fill the 13 hours between rise and sleep. Then, eventually, we die.

I’m 42.