Today, I turn 26. I’m now closer to 30 than 20. My hair is rapidly starting to gray. A hangover seems to last days. I’m waking up at 5 a.m. to workout. That said, I don’t mind getting older. “Older” is still pretty young.
Isn’t lamenting your age with each birthday just the normal thing to do? My friends — mostly twenty-somethings — take every chance they can to marvel at how quick their years have added up. I cosign. Five years ago, I wrote about my plans for my 21st birthday in the college newspaper. The headline I went with: Turning 21 Means Turning Old and Boring. I guess the only difference is I’ve grown to embrace old and boring, even though I’ve felt old and boring for years now.
Friends are getting married. Friends are having kids. Friends are having 10-year high school reunions. Sitcoms are mostly about people my age. I don’t understand MTV anymore. I live for coffee. I exercise for health, not appearance. I get to sleep before the 10 o’clock news. If these facts and behaviors are an indicator of things to come, I’ll probably be whittling Christmas ornaments and whistling Taps as a hobby come age 30. I’ve been an old man since I was 5, watching Bob Vila’s Home Again for hours on end.
Despite all this time spent (wasted?) on bemoaning getting older, the fact is I still feel really, really young. And I am. Each time you reach an age-based milestone, be it 16, 18, 21, 25, etc., you never feel as old as you thought you would. And what does “getting old” even mean? From a young age, I assumed getting older meant figuring things out. I thought I’d know more by now. The exciting thing is I don’t know everything. But, I have learned some things:
I know I’m inspired by people, not places. (Sorry, Portland.) I know what it’s like to work a full-time, salaried job … and hate it. I know what it’s like to miss home, then move home, then understand how home is as much my identity as, well, my rapidly graying hair. I know what it’s like to be broke — really broke — and then slowly dig yourself out. I know what it is to love someone, to have them love you back, to have that love tested, and to have 100 percent faith in that love.
Happy birthday, indeed. Yesterday, I opened my gifts a day early — real grown-up, huh? — and received a fleece blanket, coffee, Burt’s Bees lip balm, a Starbucks gift card, two seasons of Mad Men, compression shorts, a coffee grinder and a potato masher. Each of these items were on my birthday list. It’s funny when you reach an age where your needs and wants are the exact same things. I was disappointed when I realized I left a AAA membership off my list.
How will I celebrate the big 2-6? A Saturday in La Crosse, Wisc. for Oktoberfest with my closest buds, then a Sunday recovery session at home watching the Vikings and Mad Men.
I’m getting good at getting older.