In a couple of years, I will turn 40. Which is a strange age to be at as people don’t tell guys much about turning 40. There is a wealth of literature out there for women as it also happens to be the age around which a lot of physiological changes start or are about to start that are irreversible. In general, it is a far more difficult time for women (which is true in any case, the age notwithstanding) than it is for men.
The twenties for me was mostly a blur, a decade of constant chaos and persistently being on the edge and little leeway in terms of opinions I held and even less leeway in terms of accommodating opinions others held. I really don’t remember much of what it was like being 25 or 28. Lots happened, which does not help and I was drawn to chaos, like a moth to a flame. Come to think of it, it is easier to remember the time because of the year than the age.
The thirties have been a different ballgame. From the slowdown the body starts exhibiting in the early part of it, to the active management you’ll need in the second half, your body makes you much more aware of how much of work goes into keeping the bag of cells, liquid and energy on the road. There are people who are at their peak in this age group, but it does not happen on its own and they really do earn their keep with it.
One interesting thing I do notice is also how I perceive death and mortality. Earlier, my thought on dying used to be one of relief. I do not know what would happen after that, but least I know that I won’t have to deal with a thousand things that I really dislike about daily living after that. Now there is a bit of thought about how my loved ones will be taken care of, how to provide for them etc. Then it comes back around to recognizing there is not a lot I can do about all such things and try to live as a better person.
The other aspect that I seem to have come around to is not being able to live a regular 9-5 working life. I had experimented with it for over a year and it is soul-crushing. The commute, the politics, the culture built around hoarding knowledge and talking people down — are things I can manage well at all anymore. Being able to make time for myself is a critical centering mechanism for me and going months without having time for it is really difficult.
That said, it is not easy to make a good living without being part of that circle as work and working environments that value and respect another person’s time and presence and their skills exist in places that are not around a lot and it takes a lot of looking around before you can even find some of them.
The last big change is more related to the times we live in. The world itself seems to be in a mad race to try and work itself into a fit of rage and anger. The overwhelming liberal bent that was there most of my lifetime seems to have replaced by one that is cowering in fear of a thousand things — some of it valid, some of it imagined. We are replacing evidence-based beliefs to affront-based ones that seem more inward-looking, closed and a far less friendly a place.
There is a certain helplessness that prevails as values that seemed to at least aim for something lofty, brave and noble all seem to have gone like dust in the wind. The world is being transformed right in front of our eyes, with tools that we never doubted could be put to such use. I fear my old age will see this cycle peak and destroy and transform pretty much all that I value. I do not particularly cherish the thought.