Today is my 40th birthday.
I try not to be pensive and melodramatic anymore, but reaching this age, I felt like I needed to at least reflect on how I should feel at this point in my life. I should feel old, right? I should feel that, perhaps, more life is behind than ahead. I should feel like my best years are behind me. I should feel a lot of things you hear are what 40 means.
You know what I feel? Lucky.
I can claim I have a challenging life. Not difficult, certainly. And not hard. I reserve those words for people who, for whatever reason, have things much “worse”, for lack of a better word, than I. But it’s a challenge. I had kids later in life, which means I knew more (I hope) but have less energy. Perhaps I have more patience, though children can certainly tax that. I have kids that have their own challenges. I have a wife in school. I work hard, often odd hours, and am responsible for, when you look at it objectively, a hell of a lot in terms of my professional life. I play Mr. Mom more often than many Dads, and take less and less time “for myself” as I get older. I get angry and frustrated, and often am on the brink of tears, though I perhaps don’t ever show that. I live in a place I never thought I would, and often yearn for times and friends I could pursue and discuss my passions with. I travel a bit, and miss out on snow days home with the kids or family functions.
But I have made a life for myself, my wife and children as an artist. I knew what I wanted to be from thirteen. I went to college for that. I self-taught myself skills that landed me my first job out of school. I’ve worked “for myself” for over ten years and, though at times it gets difficult, I can still drop everything to pick up a child at school, or attend a field trip, or run to the grocery store. When I stop and think, and sit in the quiet, I want to record every moment, every thought, and preserve it for my children. I want them to know that this, this here, is what life is about. It is not in the wild, the crazy, the reckless abandon, though many people live that way and love their lives. But that’s the unusual. However, even for those people, I think that life means something else.
Life is in the small hours, in the quiet and in the reflection.
For that’s when we think about the wild, the fun, the good times. That is when we ponder what we have done and, sometimes, what we haven’t. But life is a journey, and where we are now is in the middle of that. And when, many years from now or many miles away, someone thinks about you, and reflects on how you have touched their life, or tells a story about “that time”, we live on and on, and become more than just a pensive, tired and content middle-aged dad sitting at a computer screen.
And, though everyone’s idea of “living” is different and friends and colleagues may, from time to time, tell me how I should do things, how I should live life, how I should keeping searching, I have to wish that, for them, they could simply feel lucky to be here.
Because I do. Me. The artist, the businessman, the gruff leader. The son, the brother, the husband and father.
And, in the end, I feel lucky to be those final things most of all.