This week will bring along my 36th birthday.Â Holy crap, that sounds really bad.Â THIRTY SIX?!Â How in the hell did that happen?Â I mean, I don’t feel significantly different from 32, or 28, or 25.Â When you’re a kid, you think about when you’ll be an “adult”.Â Honestly, I’m still wondering…Â It’s gotta happen one of these days, right?
It occurred to me, that at 35 you are half of 70.Â Granted life expectancy now is mid to late 70’s, but if you kick at 70, nobody looks a that as a great tragedy.Â Whoa.Â That is a sobering thought.
With such a birthday coming, I’ve been thinking about aging.Â Stages of life, if you will.Â Of course, we have the epic speech by Billy Crystal in City Slickers.Â But I think I can expand on it a little bit. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t personally know the older ranges… I’m educated guessing)
You’re born.Â You obviously don’t remember this, and probably for good reason.Â Ye olde play-doh fun factory of life would probably not be something you want to look fondly back on.Â You are the center of attention, even if you don’t know it.
You start to figure things out.Â The walking. The talking. “NO”.Â You know… The essentials.Â You may have some friends you recognize from day care.Â The most important toy is always the one the other kid has.
The last years before you enter the forced hierarchical structure that is school.Â This is a golden time.Â Your parents are the smartest people on the planet. I remember very well hanging out with Mom all day.Â She worked from home sewing, so I would crawl around in the closet full of fabric and listen to daytime TV.Â Occasionally make a run to the bank or grocery store.Â All I knew was that my older sister wasn’t around and didn’t get to do any of this fun stuff.
Now you’re in school.Â You have a ready made gauge for ranking everyone.Â When you’re in first grade, all you know is everything is new and you’re the youngest in the school (except for those wimpy kindergartners but they don’t even go to school all day).Â Once you jump to 2nd grade, you realize what all the fuss is about.Â You instantly know, you are not the youngest, and thus, the most lame.Â Everyone older than you is cooler, everyone younger is not.Â That is just the way it is. School is the dominating force in your life.Â You spend the most time there.Â The year feels SO long.Â It might as well be 5 years between Christmases.
This is when you start to hear about other kids your age doing amazing things.Â Like a 14 year old gold medal winning gymnast. This is the first time you realize, “wow… I could have been there had I worked for it? When did I miss that boat?”Â Also, you are getting into the real formative years in school… junior high and the start of high school.Â You start to become more aware about your personal standing, fitting in with friends, figuring out your social strata.Â This is where “keeping up with the Jones'” can be developed. Your parents may be the dumbest people on the planet.
High school.Â Hormones.Â This is the first time in your life you actually start to think about the future.Â You have to start making plans and you realize that before long the security of just knowing you have years of school left is going away.Â You actually have to start figuring things out again.Â Of course, this can be put off by saying , “I’m just going to college”, but that still requires some advanced planning.
This is also when you first jump into the workforce.Â Sure, maybe you babysat or mowed lawns as a kid, but this is your first real job.Â Complete with schedules and responsibilities.Â You were eager to get that job at Burger King because you were excited to have some extra spending money in your pocket.Â What you didn’t realize was that you were actually starting a 50 year process of always having a job.Â Looking back, you might have postponed that job a little longer… all things being equal.
In college or “the real world”, first tastes of freedom.Â You move out of your parents house and figure out living on your own.Â You stay up until 3am and nobody cares.Â You see lots of people your age doing amazing things.Â College sports stars.Â Tech start-ups.Â Hollywood actors. You still wonder when you missed that boat.Â First time you make major life decisions.Â Pick a major.Â Start heading in an actual “direction”.Â You also see friends doing things you didn’t expect.Â Graduating early.Â Traveling the world.Â Getting married. Having kids.Â Seeing others do these things helps you solidify what you think and want in life.Â You swear to yourself that you are ALWAYS going to be “cool”.
Your immortal years.Â You can do anything.Â You can party on a Tuesday, and do.Â You start to get jobs that mean a little more than you previous ones.Â You stop seeing those friends who had kids.Â Others are getting married.Â Some move away.Â You realize with dread that your 10 year high school reunion is coming up.Â Where the hell did the time go?
You move up in your job.Â Start to make a little real money.Â Start to settle down a little bit.Â You may only really party on weekends.Â Buy your first house, which takes all of your time in upkeep.Â A lot of friends are getting married (perhaps you included). Start to see some friends getting divorced.Â It dawns on you, you’re no longer in your 20’s.Â You hear about pro athletes having to retire because they are so “old” and can’t perform any more.Â This scares the hell out of you.Â When you were a kid and Joe Montana retired, you thought he must have been like 50, right??Â Getting carded to buy alcohol is a pain. Your parents are the smartest people on the planet.
Time moves even faster.Â The years just swing by without ever stopping to say hello.Â You realize that what the teenagers are into is bizarre and does not interest you any more.Â Your kids start school.Â You go on real vacations to Hawaii or Europe.Â Friends get re-married.Â You realize that it is quite possible you have lived more years than you have remaining.Â This REALLY scares you.Â (which may prompt a sports car purchase).Â You have every responsibility in the world, but you deal.Â You know people your own age with kids in high school.Â Someone you know becomes a grandparent.Â First gray hairs. Your 20 year high school reunion sneaks up on you and scares the hell out of you.Â Getting carded to buy alcohol is a compliment.
Your kids grow up and can now whip you in basketball in the driveway.Â Your prime money earning years.Â You seriously begin thinking about retirement.Â The body starts to break down.Â You have aches and pains in places that never hurt before.Â Could be the first time when someone asks your your age, you actually have to stop and think for a second.
For the first time, you are older than the President of the United States.Â Still wonder when you missed that boat. Your kids start having families.Â Holidays become a planning nightmare.Â Winding down your career.Â You have friends who have retired early and love it.Â You have other friends who shuffle off the mortal coil.Â You sell the sports car, and spend 10 minutes every morning taking your 6 prescriptions.Â You can start taking advantage of “senior discounts”. You start getting AARP mailings.Â This scares the hell out of you.
You’re happy you made it this far.Â The most important thing about having birthdays is that they keep coming.Â You read the obituaries every day, looking for people you know. You hopefully settle into old age and just enjoy life.Â You’ve seen everything and done everything so nothing else scares the hell out of you… except that strange looking mole.
These are the gravy years.Â You beat the average life expectancy. Great grandchildren. Still happy to see more birthdays. You leave dishes of strange candy around your house.
So there ya go… Jason’s stages of life.Â Make of that what you will.
And, Happy Birthday today, Mom.Â Love you!