In 5 days it’s officially over. By over, I mean my youth. May 15th is the day that I hit 36, and from there it’s a hop, skip and a shuffle to assisted living. Yesterday I heard Pearl Jam being played on the classic rock station; if that’s not a sign from The Flying Spaghetti Monster that the springtime of my life is past, then I just don’t know what is.
By 36, Jesus of Nazareth had been dead for something like three years. Bob Marley wouldn’t live to see 37 (ps- 29 nine years ago tomorrow!). Princess Diana and Marylin Monroe both checked out at age 36. Eric “Eazy-E” Wright of NWA infamy had been dead for 5 years by the time he would’ve hit 3-6. Even Mozart only made it to 35. And I’ve got one year left if I want to beat van Gogh to the graveyard.
Hardly my contemporaries, I grant you that much.
The incoming Prime Minister of Great Britain is only 43. At age 36, Benjamin Franklin invented the Franklin Stove and Robert Jarvik invented a pneumatically powered heart.
I managed to remember to take the trash out to the street tonight.
WHAT. THE. HELL. HAPPENED?
And from this statement, I follow it up with this theory: the last time the world really was your oyster was at your high school graduation. Seriously. Think about it.
Set aside how the Class of ’92 was THE best class EVER!! and all that other bilge that you endured at your graduation about how your high school would never see the likes of a class like this again. And think about this: never again in your life will you be afforded any opportunity like this. You can really do whatever it is you want, and people will applaud you for “following your own path”. You want to be an astronaut? Get your ass in gear and brush up on your physics in college, next thing you know, you’re guzzling Tang in lunar orbit. You wanna get stoned all day long and live under the pier? People will admire you for “finding yourself” before you dedicate your life to living in dumpsters. There really are no limits.
Take your 30’s: you’re expected to do your job, and do it competently. No one looks at a 32 year old machinist and says “hey look at Bobby. Can you believe it? Only 32 and he shows up to work every single day!” And Bobby silently seethes each night as he cracks open an Old Milwaukee, wondering how in the hell he ended up making cylinder heads for a living. I can’t just up and tell my family tomorrow “I think I shall be a mathematician, starting around lunchtime.” They would verbally lynch me and tell me to get my ass into the firehouse and back on the ladder truck. My path is set, to a certain degree, and so is yours.
B.B. King is universally hailed as the King of The Blues, and I’m 67% sure he plotted that course much earlier than 36. And while his music has more and more appeal to me every day, his path is one that never occurred for me to take, except for a short period of time in high school. My stepdad pointed out to me “yeah, I can see you like playing music; so did I. And so do thousands of starving musicians. Keep studying.” And I listened. And I’m not starving, so there’s that. But I abandoned my nutty ideals and wayfaring dreams somewhere along the way. So did most people I know.
Now lofty flights of fancy like owning a tugboat with The Dirtbag and plying the mighty Columbia River are little more than front porch mumblings into my cocktail tumbler. And I look at the Heathens playing in the yard and envy them not the pain they’ll endure at life’s hands, but rather, the opportunities they’ll be given as they approach double digits. I see it as my job to help them embrace their dreams and encourage their risk-taking. Heathen #1 told me the other day he wants to be a volcano scientist, and I was stoked. I told him that was the coolest thing I’d ever heard, and I’m sure when he changes his mind next week, I’ll like that idea too. I might be hitting middle age, but I refuse to let my enthusiasm for their dreams be dimmed by my crotchety outlook on other aspects of this life. That, now, is my job.
Of course, Julia Child began cooking at 36.
I think I’ll start looking on Craigslist for a good deal on a tugboat.