Turning 40 really hasn’t given me occasion or need to contemplate what it means to be 40 or to engage in “am I where I wanted to be” cogitation. I’m neither terribly excited by nor terribly concerned with this ‘milestone.’ As I was walking to the gym today, however, I did realize that it is kind of fun to think of life in ten year chunks: even decades; nice, smooth, easily contemplated blocks of time.
So I thought back to March 7, 1997, and asked myself what has changed in my life in that period, and what has happened to me with or without my consent or effort. Much of what came to me isn’t my doing alone, much of it is something we’ve done as a couple. But since it’s my birthday, and for the sake of convenience, I’ll speak in the first person. In no particular order, here’s what occurs to me:
- two-time father of little spunky girls (OK, this one does come first for a reason)
- purchased three homes, sold two, and rehabbed one (and am still recovering from that)
- went from a dead-end job working for Wash U’s libraries (great boss, great immediate coworkers–some still friends to this day–but crappy pay and no challenges whatsoever) to looking back on a resume where I’ve worked for three different large academic libraries and have something one could actually describe as a career path
- spent a fabulous year with the love of my life in Germany, doing good work, but really living the high life in the best damn city on the planet
- over the decade, took something like 10-12 trips to Europe, some for business, some for pleasure, some for both–but always digging the being there part (hate, hate, hate the flight each and every time) and learning to feel normal and completely at ease in any German context
- in 1997 I played hockey and still longed to return to the rugby pitch; in the meantime I came to my senses and now engage in lifetime sports such as cycling and speedskating
- haven’t gained an ounce, lost significantly more hair, or given up the ghost on being a fit and active person
- had more adventures than I can even remember: canyoneering in Utah, the best ski days of my life, snowboarding down singletrack trails with Kenning like some sort of idiot, getting hauled out of a climbing area in Illinois on a backboard (may have been pre-1997, but, hey, it was a serious blow to the head), riding multiple centuries, running the fastest 5K of my life (I will never, ever beat 19:06, guaranteed), skating 120K in Austria before literally falling over from nerve damage (I will do the 200 before I die), volunteering as an interpreter at the 2002 Winter Games and meeting every speedskater I’ve ever wanted to meet, etc.
What’s funny, and really exciting, is that as I look forward to the next decade, I’m nothing but excited about what I’ll look back upon at 50. In some ways, I feel that I’ve arrived at a point in my life where I know who I am, what I want, and how to get those things. I used to waste a great deal of time on fantasies and pursuits that did little or nothing for me as a person (see: playing hockey); it was grand fun, and I wouldn’t change a thing, but now I’m in a place where I have a certain stability, perspective, and, gasp, maturity, to know both my limitations and my capabilities. When I say I will skate the 200K, I mean it and know what it takes to get it done. I’d bet the house I’ll do it before 50, and anyone who likes a celebration should plan to be in Weissensee or Kuopio to see the fireworks when I cross the line. Professionally, I feel like my best years are ahead of me. Personally, I’ve achieved most everything one could want–love and family–and now it’s about taking part in the lives of two girls whom I know will make me proud. I feel good.