When I interview people for life storytelling I often break down story questions by childhood, young adult, older adult, and then the big picture of life. I have rarely contemplated where I currently land in this distinction.
Since turning 40 I have used terms like “barely 40” or have said with a laugh, “I’m just sticking my toe in the pool of 40.” Even to be as vague as to say “I’m a smidge over 40.” After a few years passed by, I went with “early 40’s.”
Recently I used the “early 40’s” comment one too many times around my husband when he ruthlessly brought me into the reality of the situation when he stared at me and then said, “You are turning 45 next month. That is literally the middle of your 40’s.”
At 45, am I middle aged? I googled what is determined middle aged. I found that the Gen X crowd (me) thinks middle age is 45 to 55 years old. Younger millennials on the other hand believe one enters middle age at 35. Oh, young millennials, you sweet children, get back to me when you are in fact 35.
To be honest, I do believe 45 is middle aged. I don’t think it is a bad thing at all. But when I consider myself middle aged it also makes me think about how my perspectives on life have changed over time. In that vein, I have come up with a few examples of how you might know you are nearing middle age:
Most of your weekend is spent on yard work or talking about the yardwork you didn’t get done.
In my young adulthood my yard work game consisted of having a lawnmower. That’s it. And it was usually an old rusted one that my dad gave me or I found in the garage of the house I was renting. In my 20’s my roommate and I were taken aback when our landlord prompted us to mow the lawn more than every other week and then asked if we were going to clean the gutters.
My response was, “I am afraid of heights and my roommate has mono..so...” Both of those were absolute facts at that moment in time. Looking back, I have a feeling our landlord anxiously drove past their property daily to see how bad of condition the yard was in.
This last weekend my husband and I debated when the edging would get done, did we need to invest in a cordless weed eater and hedge trimmer, and would we have time to go to our Saturday morning workout class when landscaping was so clearly priority number one. This discussion also included looking at the calendars on our phones for the next week and tracking the weather (the flower photo to the left is one of many pictures in my photo roll of my yard that no one cares about).
You might have to do the “modified” version of a workout.
I have never been a runner. I have often backed this up with a comment that my dad once said years ago that our family does not run. We are not runners. None of us apparently. From generation to generation - no runners. I have not surveyed any first or second cousins on this declaration, but I believe that it gives me the liberty to decline running. That being said, when I do run I have one knee that will pop. It has always done this. That knee just does not care for impact sports.
I consider myself someone who is in somewhat decent shape. I attend a strength and weights class two times a week. Last week I thought I would try a new cardio class. It was actually awesome. The instructor had tons of energy, I burned a ton of calories, and I had to blow dry the sweat from my hair before returning to work. So yes, it was intense.
Fast forward two days later and my knee hurts, actually both knees, and I am holding my back when I bend over to pick something up. Why would this happen? Because during the high impact parts of the workout I ignored her suggestions to modify certain segments of the workout. When she looked directly at me and suggested doing squats instead of the burpees, I paid zero attention. As everyone danced back and forth pumping their knees high and she suggested toe tapping I completely disregarded that idea.
You might think this is the point where I learned my lesson. Guess what, you are wrong. I will be there next week not modifying anything because I am also going to be that person that refuses to stop doing anything. Someone will have to pry the keys out of my hand when I am 105. What can I say, I come from stubborn people.
You appreciate everything you once thought was a cliché.
All of the sayings and words of wisdom your parents told you that you used to roll your eyes at - they are all true. Life does go by faster and faster every year, you now appreciate the little things in life, and your kids do grow up in the blink of an eye. It is all true.
I see this even more clearly through the stories I tell. Everyone has a different story, but most tell me the same things: they wished they had worked less and went on more vacations, after years and years with their spouse, through the ups and downs, they are still everything to them, their relationships define their life, and they don’t have too many regrets because their decisions made them who they are today.
I have now become the parent spouting out the words of wisdom that seem to bounce right off my kids, just as I am sure my parents thought about me.
A friend and I had lunch last week and we had a discussion about getting older and she commented how she likes the wrinkle in the middle of her forehead because it shows that she is an expressive person. We laughed about trying to stay young and later I thought about the fact that my laugh lines are the history of my life. Every good or silly thing that has happened is saved to remind me of that every time I look in the mirror.
Someday, when most of my life is a memory, I hope that I can still laugh about getting older and appreciate every little line on my face that represents my life. Some will be from joy and some from sadness, but all the same, the story of me.
Sometimes the middle can be a beginning.
When you are young you look at someone who is 40 or 50 and think that most of their life adventures have already been had. The older I get the more silly that seems. I interviewed a man who was 102 who met his 96 year old girlfriend in his 90’s out dancing.
I married my husband right in the middle of my life. Right in the middle of kid chaos, careers, buying and selling houses, we decided to begin something new. So middle aged? Sure, I’m fine with that! The middle of the story is just that. There are many more pages to be turned.
Photo credit: e.three photography