June 10, 2010

I Am Not That

I’ve been shocked recently by all the references to what being over 40 means. I’m 41. I don’t feel like all these things I’m reading and hearing.

One New York Times article talks about what it means to be a Generation Xer (born 1964 to 1979). I admire his attempt at meaning (we are an ironic bunch who refused to grow up), but it isn’t my meaning, nor does it reflect my experience. Not only that, but when I read these types of articles, I always think: But that’s not unusual. I resist the idea that what the author asserts makes this generation unique actually is unique. Don’t all generations go through this at this age? It doesn’t make us different; it makes us the same.

I always tell people I don’t mind telling my age. I like getting older. When I was young, I always wanted to be older, and now that I’m older, I’m happy. I don’t mind getting older because it means I understand more and more what makes me happy and I’m able to say no to the things that don’t. I think it helps to have had a shitty childhood, and now I have control of my destiny, as much as any of us do. Plus I’m getting better at the thing I love to do more than anything, which is writing.

Another reference is the cover of this week’s New Yorker. It shows “the Literary Field,” with writers from birth to death shown struggling to live and to be writers. What gets me is the line at age 40. Of course, the issue is about 20 literary stars ~ or future stars ~ under the age of 40. However, the things depicted after 40 also aren’t my experience ~ suicide, death, drawn away by academics, chasing butterflies. I feel more like what’s depicted in the midtwenties ~ I’m working hard at my craft, I’m looking around at other people, I’m in the moment. What really gets me, too, is that the field is dismissively shaded darker after 40.

You know what? I refuse and refute all of these representations. I will not internalize it. In general, I’m not someone who lives in the past, who obsesses about where I was 10 years ago or thinks fondly of the past. I’m also not someone who lives for where I imagine I’ll be in 10 years. Who can tell? So much can change. Inside, I tend to live here and now and maybe with a little planning into the next week.

Which is not to say I don’t try to figure things out that happened in the past and plan for the future, but I refuse to be cynical, to be a meta (someone who doesn’t live in life but rather outside of it). I refuse to be labeled with “midlife crisis” and “of a certain age” and I refuse to take someone else’s meaning and apply it to my life. I’ve got all I can handle living my own and trying to heal from the past and go on into the future. It’s all I can do being there with my family and doing a good job and creating what I love.

Is my life just so odd and out of the mainstream that my experience is that unusual? Hmmm.

What I’m Reading Today: More The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

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