I felt optimistic when I turned 40. My partner and I drove down to New Orleans and spent a glorious few days enjoying that party of a city, which may have contributed to my optimism. Fifty seemed a decade away, and at 40, decades are still slowly crawling downhill. At 45, I started to think about what 48 would look like, gazing down the cannon barrel at 50, and I’ll admit, it sent shivers down my spine.
I don’t fear the number 50 or even the implication of being “over the hill,” to be honest, 45 was a cleaner, more probable halfway point than 50 is. What I’m truly terrified of is looking down that long, dark hallway of another decade knowing that decades are starting to calve like glaciers for me.
Noah Yuval Harari says that someone born during my lifetime will live to be 300 years old thanks to advancing technologies and our increasing understanding of the human body. Much like B.A. Baracus, I pity the fool. It’s fascinating to me that we’re living on the edge of a great extension of human life at a point in history where we’ve so denigrated the planet that we’re simultaneously causing our own mass extinction, a virtual, “hey, don’t forget to buy your tickets for front-row seats to the end of the world.”
Such are my thoughts of late. Something about the gray, dreary days of January put me in a reflective mood while also charging my emotions with thoughts about the future. One thing the pandemic has done for me is to convince me that going outside is always good for me. Good for my body, good for my soul, (whatever that means) good for my mind and basically good for everyone else who meets me in that space. Going outside generally means going for a walk, a bike ride, bird watching, star gazing or any excuse I can muster up, really.
I sat at my desk in my cubicle last week watching the rain plaster the big glass window, for which I’m truly grateful. The next best thing to being outside is getting to look at it through a big-ass window. As the rain fell in sheets and streaked the glass to obscure the view like an impressionist might paint the parking lot behind my building, I thought about the feeling of being warm and dry. Something I hadn’t been a few hours ago when I’d ridden my bike from my house to work and managed to soak through hundreds of dollars of expensive cycling rain gear.
It’s not really the fault of the rain gear, the rain was just that heavy.
So, here I am, warm and dry, watching the rain beat down and thinking to myself: Do I really want to do this again?
I put fresh rain gear on. By fresh, I mean dry. And I made my way around my typical two-mile trek around the Fairview Wetlands. The skies opened and behold there was light shining through the sullen gray that hung like curtains over us all morning.
It tends to happen that being over-prepared will ultimately lead to me walking two miles in full rain gear as the sun begins to break through briefly, which is why I tempt the fates by bringing raingear along with me in addition to my cycling rain gear.
But getting outside is a must, the results of which have made me a better person more capable of handling the stress of a social media job and navigating the family through the pandemic even as two fifths of us are starting to move off in their own directions. I was going to call it a splintering family, but that sounds negative, even for me.
So, I’m walking into 48 next week with, perhaps, a more positive outlook on a short-term future than I’ve had since I turned 40. The catharsis of the outdoors is good medicine. Better than anything I’ve ever taken from the pharmaceutical industry. Fifty still scares me a bit, because 60 is outside that short-term future I’ve come to terms with.
The world will look very different in that short time that falls like sheets of ice to become the icebergs of my life, rapidly shrinking away to fill the seas with lost experiences. I do look forward to rounding out this last decade with a little bit of self-preservation, less second-guessing hindsight, more road miles under my butt, more birds observed, more time with those who give me life, more action and less sitting around in a constant state of terror.