Thirty five years old. I’m not sure if there has been a birthday in my thirties in which I haven’t thought back to being twenty and how I perceived people a decade beyond back then. They always seemed like they had it together. I guess I always assumed that by the time I got to this age I would have it together too. I would tell people that I had no intention of settling down. That college was a waste of my time….. that jobs were for those that had given up, etc etc etc. Looking back on that today, I can’t remember whether or not I actually believed it myself or if I was simply posturing.
Maybe I really thought that I was going to be living some kind of picturesque picket fenced kind of life in a quaint Midwestern downtown of well-manicured lawns and Sunday dresses. Admittedly, I still love the smell of freshly cut grass despite a deep philosophical opposition to the idea of ritualistic watering of a plant that serves no purpose beyond that feeling of accomplishment one attains when realizing that their lawn is not only perfectly homogenized within itself, but within the entirety of the country. Plant seed, water, wait, water, mow, water, mow, water…….
People in their thirties are only moderately better at appearing as if they have a clue than people in their twenties. And my guess is that our seemingly solid grasp on life is only perceived by those at least ten years our junior. To each other we’re all just a part of this ridiculous circus in which we tuck our shirts in each morning and sail through rivers of tin cans with technological wizardry such as GPS and chilled gloveboxes only to shovel coals into the ovens of a ship that we didn’t build, don’t know how the hell it works, and have this sneaking suspicion that it is heading toward the most beautiful waterfall we’ve ever seen. Water, mow, water, mow, water…… wake up, get that coffee, make that money, have a beer… Rinse and repeat.
Thirty five years old. I have grey hairs in my beard and a few on the side of my head. There was a period in my late twenties where I was afraid that I was balding due to the stress of personal finances that had gone off the waterfall and hit the rocks below. A few silvers are sort of a compliment. They make me think I’ve learned something.
When I was twenty five I was near my physical peak. That combined with the mental acuity of a mid-twenties male which is pretty much on par with a dog that licks its own ass and you get an understandably diminished sense of mortality which makes for some pretty epic climbing experiences. Fast forward to the present and the knees are getting creaky, the torn labrum in my shoulder flares up every now and then, and the back pain can keep me from being able to get off the floor if I’m not careful. The hip reminds me every now and then of that twenty five foot whipper in Kentucky (whipper is rock climbing speak for really big fall). I spent the next 3 days drinking whisk(e)y in my tent. Yet with my grey hairs, I can still compete with twenty five year old Chris’ climbing most days of the week. Wisdom…… footwork……
One thing that hasn’t changed is that if I’m not consistently putting myself in situations that challenge hard clung beliefs and/or occasionally make me wonder if I’m going to die, then I’m not really living. When Monday morning’s shit storm at work starts to get you down, just think back to Friday night when you were on that mid-December ridgeline. No more water and sort of lost. No sleeping bag, 30 mile per hour gusts. Having that awkward internal monologue about how you might spend the night up there and that you’re probably going to have to be the little spoon to keep warm because your friend is six inches taller.
And now here you are at thirty five. You remember thinking about the things you would be and do when you “grew up.” You know enough to know that growing up isn’t really a line that you pass one day, but you’re not really sure what it is or when it happens. You don’t even really know if it has happened to you yet. You have a sneaking suspicion that it hasn’t. You’re just there doing the things that you think you’re supposed to be doing. Every now and then you might question those things. If that happens more often than you’d like, then it might be a good time to sell everything and buy a really nice touring bike, find yourself an English ladyfriend, and get out of Dodge.