Monday, January 22, 2007

age to the nines

Stop and consider for a moment the numbers that represent our age at various times of our lives. Some of those numbers carry great significance, others are just a stop in the progression, or a hurdle we have to clear before landing on one of those more significant numbers.

What brings this number game to mind, you ask. Well, as I approach another birthday, I am faced with one of those hurdle numbers, one of the less significant numbers, one of numbers that simply stand in the way. Upon further contemplation of all those ages we pass through along our journey to the final number, I realized that the number 9 plays a big role in those nondescript numbers like the one facing me this birthday.

Remember when you were 9 years old and you felt like such a baby yet because you hadn’t quite hit those double digit numbers. Ten seemed like such a milestone, such a bold step into being considered a real person and not just the little brother or sister who got picked on all the time. At 9 you were just a wimpy little kid still playing with little kid toys. Oh, to be ten and step into the realm of the big kids.

Then, after suffering through your teens, you landed in Limbo at age 19. While technically still a teenager, you felt so much more than that. You couldn’t wait to get rid of the teen label so that you would be taken more seriously by everyone. Sure you could vote and join the army, but you were still a freakin teenager for God’s sake. Being lumped with all tose 16 year old punks was the height of humiliation. Twenty, and young adulthood, couldn’t come soon enough.

Twenty-nine was a rude awakening. This is possibly the only age with a nine in it that we might have wished would stay around for a bit longer. Graduating from the twenty-something-young-adult-on-a-journey-of-discovery to the real adult world represented by the number 30 has caused a lot of regrets about misspent youth and the wish for a do-over. But we all have to leave the self-indulgent twenties sometime and go through that gate into responsible adulthhood. Still, why does 29 have to be so short a year?

By the time 38 comes around we have been established in the real world, but often still lack the respect that comes with a nice round number like 40. At 38 we are ready for the long middle age years that add distinction to our lives and yet we have to endure that one more year, 39, in the waiting room of middle age.

At 49 we are entrenched in middle age and should be reaping the rewards of well spent life and yet “treading water” seems the most apt analogy. At 49 we are neither young nor old. We have neither the promise of youth to fall back on nor the stature accorded a respected old age. Forty-nine is near the crest of the middle age hill, but not quite the summit that will allow us to hesitate and take a deep breath before plunging down the far side of the hill.

So now 59 is looming, and though I have been careening down the far side of the middle age hill for nearly a decade, I can’t help but wonder if I can tolerate one more year of headlong descent before reaching the valley of Senior Status. Fifty-nine seems like one more year of waiting in line to get my senior card. According to AARP I’ve been listed on their roster as a senior since I bumped into fifty way back then, but that’s a marketing ploy senior, not the real thing. I just feel like I’m an advanced middle age codger, an AARP card carrying codger it’s true, but not really a full fledged codger yet. I have one more year in Limbo before being released into the world of respect inhabited by real Seniors. I’m assuming that at age sixty I will immediately acquire advanced degrees of wisdom and unqualified insight into the human condition. I might even get to play the lovable excentric if I choose to go that way. A whole new brave world awaits my participation. But here I am still stuck on this downward slide for one more year. I’m getting impatient.


Kat said...

You have succinctly summed up exactly how I feel about age. I only celebrate the milestone ones nowdays, the rest are just page markers.

Bud said...

I'm totally empathetic with you on this subject, Bob. I've decided to just never associate myself with a number again. Let them all guess how old I am. If they guess too high, I'll lie indignantly. If they guess way low, I'll say, "You're pretty close."

Sunflower Optimism said...

Don't be impatient - it's like wishing your life away! From James Taylor - "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time."

Another of my mottos: "Old age? It beats the alternative."

Wiccachicky said...

Since I am dealing with that 29 year this year, I totally agree. I'm dreading the big 30.