Next week, I’ll be 36 years old. I had my first job at 15 years old, joined the Marine Corps at 17, was discharged at 22, and began working in the civilian world immediately thereafter.
I was married at 24, a father at 26, and a widower at 34. For 21 years, almost two thirds of my life, I’ve been working, playing, learning, and growing. It has been “go, go, go” since before I was able to drive. For the most part, I’ve kept up the pace. Sure, it’s been stressful, but I’ve never felt physically incapable of providing for myself and my family. I’ve never been too tired to take a leisurely drive or cast a fishing pole. Yeah, there are days when we all just want to lie around on the couch and do nothing, but those days have usually been few and far between.
Bills need paid, lawns need mowed, trails need hiked, people need fed, plumbing needs unclogged, books need read, and cars need washed.
If there’s one thing Megan taught me above all other things, it was that you have to live life as much as possible with whatever time you have.
Lately though, it feels as if she was able to embody that lesson with an “unfair advantage”. As much as it pains me to think about, she knew that she wasn’t going to ever have as full a life, time wise at least, as most of us. She hit her “golden years” at age 29. She’d have been lucky to live to age 40, and she knew it. Everything was new experiences, new reasons to do something, and reminders that if she didn’t do something now, she would likely never get the chance to “do it later”.
Meanwhile, I’m sitting here with a back that’s spasming, a sore ankle and a trick knee, slowly gaining in both weight and stress. I washed the car Monday night, and was half ready to crawl back into the house on my hands and knees. I can’t keep up with a 9-year-old’s energy any more than a few hours without being ready to collapse on the couch. All I can think about is that I have another 25, maybe 35 years of going to work, mowing the lawn, fixing the plumbing, and paying bills. Another three or so decades of being an “adult” instead of a “senior” or “retiree” where I can sit in my underwear and yell at kids to “get off my lawn” and eat pudding while Sarah watches her soaps and plays pinochle with the other Golden Girls.
Are you kidding me? I’m only HALFWAY there?
Oh, and I have to continue on the path I started at age 22 without the person I started that path with? Where’s the damned reset button? I WANT to forge a new path. I WANT to get out of the corporate rat-race that is enterprise-level IT. I have both the means and the intelligence to do it, but the “reset” button only goes so far. The wear and tear on my body, even at 35, would still be there. The bank doesn’t just say “oh, I see you’re widowed and you’re telling us that you would like to start over, we’ll go ahead and write off your mortgage. Good luck sir!” Shelby, wise beyond her years, is still a 9 year old. She’s ever so slightly on the young side to be getting her own place. Sarah is forced to shoehorn into large parts of the life that Megan and I had. She is remarkable in that she is a seamless fit into all of it, but it isn’t like she was present when we signed the loan paperwork for the cars we’re still paying on, the job offer for my current employer, or the mortgage paperwork for the house that she, Shelby, and I now live in together.
Part of the desire for the reset button is for her too. She shouldn’t have to make the choice to “do things the way we’ve always done”. She shouldn’t have to listen to the same complaints about my job that Megan had to. She is as much a part of our family as Megan was, but that doesn’t mean she IS Megan. Quite the contrary.
She gets to watch me wash a car and then immediately take excedrin and deflate onto the couch while my joints stop screaming. Megan got to see me washing a car at 4:00 AM on the day of a car show and enjoy the entire day. Sarah gets to go to dinner with me, and instead of heading out to see a movie and have a few drinks afterwards, we’re calling it a night at 7:00 PM.
She gets the mid-30’s version of me. The version that I swore I’d never be when I was 25. The “grumpy old man” version. I’m still plodding along...fixing things, entertaining, providing, and being responsible, but man, is it getting tougher to do knowing that I’m only halfway done.
Yeah, yeah, I’m only 35...soon to be 36. I’m not “old”. I’m not in diapers again or using a walker yet. I still have my hair, teeth, and hearing. I don’t have any physical limitations other than some soreness.
I’ve accomplished a hell of a lot in 35 years...so much so that I feel like I’ve lived twice as long.
But I HAVEN’T lived twice as long. I am still only halfway there...maybe not even that far. I still have plenty of time to pay off bills, start a new business doing what I love, raise a daughter to adulthood, lie on the couch, and take some hikes. My body has been aching a lot lately and I’m just plain tired more often than I used to be...but I’ve got plenty of time.
Or do I?
Stay tuned. 34 years from now, I’ll let you know how it all went.