In my head, I’m still that 20-something guy, absorbing all I can and working on that long journey to figure out myself and the world.
If I close my eyes and sing along to some song that means anything to me, it’s still 1993. I’m sitting on the bed in that rented room on Dallas Avenue, wearing tattered jeans and a tie-dyed shirt while lip-syncing Toad the Wet Sprocket.
For a split second, I might even get the urge to hop on the old Schwinn mountain bike and head to White Clay Creek for a little spiritual respite.
Then I catch a glimpse of someone in the mirror—someone I really don’t recognize.
That guy is old, tired, and a bit tattered. He doesn’t have half the time, energy, or money needed to do all the things that younger guy was sure he’d get around to. He doesn’t even have a passport—and can’t really afford the expense, much less a trip that would put the passport to use!
He’s not fit or energetic and longs most for a quiet moment to catch a Little House on the Prairie rerun or listen to some “old” music from the 80s or 90s.
He’s also a bit dismayed at how the world has turned out. He saw people paying attention to more than “just stuff” in the 90s, so it’s hard for him to believe that proud ignorance is now king, glorified and glamorized on TV.
He also never would have guessed how the job market and economy would be in 2015, and all the “endless possibilities” drilled into his head just withered before they were even born. For him, building dreams has turned into just fending off nightmares.
The guy looking back at me has come to lament the “old days” and has accumulated a bit of sadness for the things and people lost—small things, like Woolworth and that old Schwinn mountain bike his father bought, as well as big things, like a father, a little brother, and a best friend. The years of disappointment and struggle are etched into his face, no matter how positive he appears to the world.
Physically, mentally, and spiritually that guy in the mirror just can’t be that 20-something guy in my head, filled with hope, dreams, and a zest for life. He’s not even someone I know! But he does seem to be in charge.
Maybe feelings of disconnect are common for people in their 40s—just part of getting older?
Maybe it’s just a sign of an approaching mid-life crisis? (I hope not!) If so, it’s certainly not something parents or grandparents warn us about: One day, you won’t recognize yourself. Who would want to scare a kid that way, I suppose.
Getting older really does suck—but so far, I haven’t found a viable alternative.