h1

‘Vantage’, an essay from the upcoming book Travesty

July 6, 2015

image

I’m turning 40 this year and there’s nothing funny about that.

Here’s the secret, though; the whopping truism that you grapple with your entire life: No grown up has any fucking clue or handle on their life. No clue whatsoever. I grew up operating under the assumption that I’d reach an indeterminate adult age where everything made sense, where I got my life together and the rules of the universe just clicked into place. That will never happen because that scenario doesn’t exist. I will never ‘get it’, and I can’t even tell you what ‘it’ is because I don’t have it and am happily resigned to the fact that I’ll never get ‘it’. I just won’t. Nobody will, and that’s okay.

Now that I’m on the other end of it, I can report back that adults don’t have the market cornered on any profound wellspring of wisdom any more than children do. In some cases even less so. At the core of it, many of us are just scared little kids who have been too busy to work out issues or defects or personality flaws that we’ve carried for three decades. There is no doubt that I’m not much further along psychologically or developmentally than my 2 year old son and I’m probably not the only near-40 year old who can admit that.

Since birth, I’ve had the innate ability to look back by a year and marvel at how far I had my head up my ass. Through my powers of deduction and reasoning, I suspect that I will have that talent well into my old age. By that same logic, I presume that a year from now I’ll be able to look back and draw the conclusion that I had my head up my ass right now. I am a work in progress, and everything is relative.

The big relief (for me) is that I’ve lost my mind so many times in the last 39 years and now there is no grand finale during a phase of my life where all of my friends, peers and co-workers approaching or reaching the same age are obviously losing theirs. I’ve seen the fad beach/Atkins/all hot dog/no carbs/strictly watermelon and free range kale diet for the women looking to erase the irreparable damage that three kids and/or three decades of neglect will do to a woman’s body. I’ve seen the muscle car/motorcycle/sudden interest in guns/hunting and/or the outdoors that somehow reaffirm a man’s masculinity and sense of self after having it systematically stripped away from him due to an overbearing wife or an emasculating job.

Biologically my warranty ran out yesterday. Scientists claim that men reach their peak in terms of growth and sexuality around the age of 23 and I’m certainly not going to disagree with that. Testosterone levels wane, I have a bald spot that’s ideal for a yarmulke or Gregorian Chanting, my ear hair sprouts up like some nightmare Horn Of Plenty and I have to pick and choose how, when and if I’m going to incinerate what brain cells and neurological pathways I have left because they are now finite. As my father is fond of saying, I can’t do it like I used to. Most of my get up and go has gotten up and went. And a hundred other corny hackneyed sayings.

And those are really the only two flavors of mid-life crisis that I’ve seen. We’ve all already worked out most of our divorces or new career trajectories, our relocations, expatriations or major idealogical or spiritual tectonic shifts in our ’30s. Most of what I’ve seen has been more of a renunciation of the lives we’ve already lived; a flat rejection of everything we’ve worked for up until that point. I suppose my recovery falls under that heading, too. All of the crises already in progress have been obvious Mid Life Crises.
There’s the sense that I’m on a long journey and I’ve charted a new course halfway through. It’s probably that way for everyone. You have a clear sense of direction as you establish your identity along with your place in the world and all of a sudden you change your mind in a very contradictory fashion. I spent my 20’s flying by the seat of my pants, hopping into bed with any interested parties, writing for anyone who’d take me and developing a cynical sort of world-weariness. I was trying to be different…just like everyone else. I spent my ’30s trying to be a regular adult with a regular lifestyle grappling with where a square peg fit into a round world and what my obligation as a citizen was to that world.

Those last two decades went out the window recently. 40 is the soft reset, the reaffirmation of the values that propelled you this far that you forgot about or compromised your way out of. It’s the striking realization that you are going to die. I’m not invincible anymore and the glass is half empty now. I’ll leave the half full nonsense to the idealists. If I’m really lucky I’ve got another forty years to go. It’s time to work on making a bigger dent. With the magic of futuristic retrospect, I can assure you that I had my head up my ass when I said that.

     -Tom Waters (39) is the author of twelve books of humor, memoir and poetry. He’s written for The Buffalo News, Buffalo Spree, Night Life Magazine and quite a few other publications during his career. He’s also the host of Big Words I Know By Heart, a YouTube talk show that pushes the boundaries of the polite interview format. Waters lives in Clarence with his son Benjamin and his rescue cat Morris

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: