This (actually) is 40

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Today I turn 40. Hooray. Hooray for me.

Actually, hooray for my mother and my father and my sister and brother-in-law. Hooray for my friends who’ve managed to stick around. Some a couple years, others since 8th grade, one since birth. Hooray for my exes, all of whom had to suffer through snippets of four decades of growth, insecurity and bad decision-making. Hooray for teachers and coaches and former co-workers and current ones. I tried every excuse in the book and wrote a couple of my own, yet some kept the faith. Hooray especially for Robin, the mother of my child, who just last night didn’t have to say anything to say, “I’m tired” and got up and went to bed.

I don’t know much. If 40 is anything it’s the age where you’re adult enough to admit you really have no clue. Some would say it’s the time of life you come to grips with the fact that you’re just faking it. I would say, I admire those who’ve mastered the art of faking it to make it look like they have a semblance of a clue.

I am not there yet.

I have learned a few things. And by learned I mean I’ve tried every way but the right way and by the time I settled on the right way, it was probably bad timing so nobody noticed. I figure that’s why they’re called life lessons, because some take a lifetime to figure out.

But 40 is a good check-in moment. It’s halftime and the game is still in doubt even if everyone else watching has the notion of how it’s going to go. And all good halftime commentary features a little game summary and analysis.

So then, besides it being a bad idea to dress in a diaper and hold a chalkboard that says #480 months on Facebook, this is what I have learned since the Ford administration.

  • I don’t have a BMW or granite countertops. I can’t afford therapy. My floors aren’t made of real wood. I don’t own a matching mixing bowl set. The aspirational life registered with one of those engaged-couple zap guns was boxed up and given away a long time ago.
  • By the time you ask, “Is everything all right?” Everything’s definitely not all right.
  • Childhood dreams go away. And that’s fine. But I still think if someone wanted me to invest in a Huey Lewis-themed hotel, I’d be all in.
  • If the 20s are for being dumb and the 30s are for being selfish, the 40s are for atonement.
  • There’s only one Mick Jagger. Unfortunately, I’m not him.
  • It’s OK to be honest about not flossing much.
  • I’ve never had as much time to talk about my problems as they do on TV and my problems aren’t as interesting as theirs either. That’s why they’re on TV and you’re sitting there yawning.
  • I have finally learned to keep my mouth shut when it comes to parenting, someone fighting through illness or people going through relationship changes.
  • …Everything else is pretty much fair game, but I guess that’s why I still have time on the clock.
  • It’s time to be aware of getting-older smells. Coffee breath and Goodwill sweater rack. Those are the ones to avoid.
  • Unconditional love is the domain of dogs only. You have to work for it with everyone else.
  • Though I have no use for one, I still think Zippos are cool.
  • By now, if your relationships aren’t working, you’re the common denominator.
  • Punch through the bell.
  • Yelling is ineffective 99 percent of the time. The one percent it is is if someone cuts you off and your music is on really loud.
  • Never measure yourself against someone else’s success. Measure by how far you’ve come since your last failure.
  • When it comes to love or writing—show don’t tell.
  • Sometimes, it’s not all good.
  • There’s never enough: time, money, sex, vacation and snow. But there’s always plenty of whiskey.
  • I say things are the “best-ever” and I’ve come to realize maybe I’m overstating a bit. A lot.
  • Woody Allen says 80 percent of success is showing up. I would say the other 20 percent is being present while you’re there.
  • Children and terrorists are the only ones you don’t negotiate with.
  • I know the dangers of Taco Bell and all it implies. But once in awhile, it’s delicious.
  • Nothing will ever touch Seinfeld.
  • I had a recent doctor visit and he asked me what the “quality of my erection” is. I told him those two words probably don’t belong in the same sentence anymore nor was I the quality control expert. He laughed and said, “Wait till you’re 60.”
  • My buddy said he had a similar visit recently (he just turned 40 too) and his response was, “It’s about the same as my college GPA. Just passing and mostly unsatisfactory.”
  • All that stuff they say about saving for retirement in your 20s. It’s fucking true.
  • …My retirement was invested in pints, cab fare and plastic convenience store nunchaks.
  • There’s a point in your late 30s when you stop trying to keep up. Someone younger than you may interpret this as giving up. It’s not.
  • I don’t trust anyone who’s never messed up, big time. It shows a lack of passion.
  • I don’t know what 40 looks like. Sometimes it means feeling like you’re 28 and looking 50 and sometimes it’s looking like you’re 28 and feeling 50.
  • John Lennon died when he was 40 and I would have to get about a half-dozen do-overs to amass one year’s worth of his life’s work (though hopefully it wouldn’t be the Double Fantasy year).
  • I’m old enough to read The Catcher in the Rye and realize just how big an asshole Holden Caulfield is.
  • …And that makes me sad. Mostly because it’s the adults in the book who made him that way.
  • I know enough not to get fixated on the music I grew up with nor obsess over the movies I think are classics. There’s good stuff made every day, there’s just a lot more bad stuff now to sift through to get to it.
  • …Then again, if someone gave me a dark room, a bottle of Seagrams and a can of 7UP and said I get to spend the day watching Saturday Night Fever, I wouldn’t be mad.
  • The biggest concern I have going into this next chapter is whether forgetting to pack my deodorant means it has already caused Alzheimer’s.
  • My mile pace is a minute slower and my waist size is two inches bigger. Until very recently I had a hard time admitting one had something to do with the other.
  • My knees are on notice.
  • I’ve never gotten in trouble for biting my tongue.
  • Facial hair is no longer extravagant or ironic. It’s just, “…Over there, next to that guy with the beard with some gray in it.”
  • Being rich and becoming famous are no longer options. Then again, now’s about the time to start looking at the rich and famous and seeing just how sad that life can be.
  • …Though I wouldn’t mind a raise.
  • This is the start of the time of life where I have to work twice as hard for society to give me half the recognition.
  • Nothing surprises me about the way people behave.
  • If I don’t become a better friend, partner, son, brother and worker now, it’s never going to happen. Before it was years, decades even to show improvement.
  • I refuse to surrender to golf.
  • If you don’t hurry up and find your seat, someone will take it. In that sense, life is a cake walk.
  • My son came to me last year in a comet and unexpected like a powder day in May. His smile is everything.
  • My father died one year ago today on my 39th birthday. Perfect timing seems to have skipped a generation.
  • Animal crackers are still delicious. Surprisingly so.
  • More than three beers = more than three trips to the bathroom.
  • I know you’re not supposed to go to bed angry, but who wants to stay up all night talking?
  • Tipping shows the kind of person you are more than any other single monetary gesture.
  • I will continue to make people’s acquaintance and I will continue to be known. But Friends, the ones I have, are the ones I get.
  • My best friend growing up was killed in the World Trade Center. I lost my best friend from college in Afghanistan. There was a time when I thought I might not think about them every day. That time hasn’t come. Some people are with you for life and then some.
  • I’d rather have someone be honest with me than nice to me.
  • I don’t really like bananas and they’re bad for the environment but for some reason, I can’t start my day without one.
  • Getting drunk has never been less fun than it is now.
  • I get the feeling in movies about an hour in that I should be outside doing something else. That used to never happen.
  • I will always laugh when someone asks me if I want a Marg.
  • Being alone is not being lonely. Being in a big group can feel the most isolating.
  • I could do with putting the phone down more.
  • If I raised most of my jokes and stories from when they were born a lot of them would have graduated high school by now.
  • I’ve worked more than half of my life and still haven’t figured out what most people actually do all day.
  • All the stuff you get goes away. In the end, it’s about what you create and whose lives you made better. That’s it.
  • I need to start thinking more of the above.
  • When I really stop and dwell on it, the Star Wars movies kind of suck.
  • …Most of the time, kind of sucks is better than nothing.
  • If you do just one thing a day to earn the love you’re given, then it is a day—a life—well spent.

 

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  1. Possibly the best piece about turning a certain age I’ve read. Period. There are a lot of them out there, but you, good sir, nailed it. This makes me feel better about heading further into my thirties. Cheers.

  2. Possibly the best piece about turning a certain age I’ve read. Period. There are a lot of them out there, but you, good sir, nailed it. This makes me feel better about heading further into my thirties. Cheers.

  3. Happy birthday man. I just came across your post from a pal’s facebook. I turned 40 a whopping 24 hours before you, and lemme tell ya, you have more than a few things figured out well.

    Best wishes,
    Oliver

  4. Happy birthday man. I just came across your post from a pal’s facebook. I turned 40 a whopping 24 hours before you, and lemme tell ya, you have more than a few things figured out well.

    Best wishes,
    Oliver