I turned 44 on Saturday. Aside from its palindromic properties, there’s nothing terribly significant about 44. There’s no vague sense of age-related horror lurking within it, except maybe its proximity to 45 and all that represents. And as with many birthdays since passing 30, it just felt like another day, save for a really good meal with a larger number of companions than normal, and what seemed like a thousand posts on my Facebook timeline. Let’s face it, 21 is the last really fun birthday; after that, it’s just chronology.
The odd thing though is that I in no way, shape or form feel nearly halfway to 50. I spent a good portion of my birthday giddily snapping pictures of props from the Star Wars movies at the Orlando Science Center. In fact, the first thing you see in the exhibit is a massive model of the Millennium Falcon that had me as wide-eyed as a toddler on Christmas. And when I got home? I spent the better part of the night updating The Lord of the Rings Online so I could start playing again. All the while agonizing over what I was going to get when The Hobbit opened later that week with my birthday gift of a TARDIS USB hub glowing happily on my desktop.
I’ve just never felt the need or desire to leave those things behind as I’ve gotten older. Why should a bit of math dictate what things I enjoy? In fact, still being excited about those things is probably what’s keeping me from feeling and seeming as old as I am. Sure, I can see the graying hair and the wrinkles, and I can feel the bones and muscles protest when I’ve been standing or walking to long. It’s not like I’m in denial about getting older. I’m just in denial about getting old.
I think about my grandfather, who was sneaking off to fish even when he was beginning his physical decline, who was a total joker until he started to get lost in his own mind. He never really seemed old because he still had that mischievous glint in his eye. He had the spirit of a kid, and I really think that spirit sustained him as he got older. Most of the older people I know who seem the happiest are the ones who view their age not as a restriction, but as an afterthought. It’s a burden you have to choose to make into a burden, and I just don’t see that happening with me. I don’t want to be some miserable old man complaining about everything new; I want to keep experiencing the new right up until the last moments.
So I’ll be grown up and responsible. I’ll pay my bills, and maybe look fondly at some frivolous knickknack rather than immediately buying it like I used to. But I’m still going to look at it with a smile on my face and a wish in my heart. Why not? If I’m still here, I might as well enjoy it.