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Contemplating The Over Under of Approaching 40

This week, Tom Magliozzi, beloved half of the Click & Clack the Tappet Brothers and co-host of Car Talk died. He was 77. When I saw the news come across my Facebook feed, the first thing I thought was, “I want to have a life like he did- doing what he loved, laughing all the way to the end.” My second thought was “Shenanigans, if his lifespan was my yardstick, I’d be over halfway through.”

Turning 40 feels like getting to step on the gas and damn the consequences.

Turning 40 feels like getting to step on the gas and damn the consequences!

I am turning 40 early next year and in general, I’m excited about it. Actually, I am more than that- I am PUMPED. Hitting 40 feels like finally being grown up. It has this sense of coming into the fullness of who you are. Its approach definitely has a whiff of Fried Green Tomatoes about it and for the record, I DO carry a lot of insurance on my car.

Furthermore, I have this sneaking suspicion that next year, my big 4-0 is going to awesome. I’m not sure how or in what way it’s going to manifest itself, but I can feel the epic coming. I’ve got that tingly, anticipatory sensation- I imagine it’s how a dog feels ahead of an earthquake, as long as it’s the type of dog that likes earthquakes. I am also basing my excitement for this upcoming decade on the “track record” of my life (if you will). It’s been a very steady positive trajectory.

  • Childhood– I was an awkward, nerdy, know-it-all kid without a lot of friends but I don’t think I was terribly aware of that fact except in hindsight.
  • Teens– Gah. Who remembers their teen years with fondness? Seriously? Sure, there were bright spots- rowing, cross-country, being my high school’s mascot, that time my neighbor let me borrow his candy-apple red Corvette on Halloween.
    Driving my neighbor's 1981 t-top Corvette may have been the highlight of my teen years.

    Driving my neighbor’s 1981 t-top Corvette may have been the highlight of my teen years.

    Can I just stop here and say I was 16 and dressed as a 60’s-era go-go dancer with a green wool mini dress and knee high white boots?! Holy hell. I wish I had a better way to end the story- I went solo to a party I was only slightly invited to, found no one to hang out with and ended up driving home, safe & sound. Note to my kids: That whole neighbor-lends-you-his-hot-car-thing is never, ever going to happen to you at 16 or probably ever, for that matter..

  • Twenties– This is where life begins to get good- really, really good. I started to get who I was- leaving behind the younger, less self-assured self. I met my husband, married, joined the Peace Corps, lived in Kenya. Hell to the yes, the twenties were so much better than the teens.
  • Thirties– First off, how are they already coming to an end?! I feel like they just started! But they have been amazing! I became a mom, had a fantastic time & career at Microsoft, took the exciting leap away from Microsoft, started this blog, and now I work for PATH. I am feeling happier and more confident that I ever have before.

So, all that’s to say, if the past is any kind of indicator of future results- not only will the 40’s be good, but I guess the 50’s are going to blow my mind.

Another thing I have been thinking about as 40 approaches is exactly what year, what day, will be my midway point? Being both a realist and an optimist (yes, I feel like I am BOTH- so you can just roll with it), I assume that somewhere in my forties I will hit “the halfway point” between life and death. Halfway between smiling, laughing, thinking, and that long dirt nap.

The average life expectancy of a woman in the US is 81 years old (that’s the realist talking). I consider myself healthier and happier than average, so round that up a few years (that’s the optimist talking) and I find myself gravitating towards 86. It’s a nice number, cleanly divisible by two, still older than my dad, so- I figured I wouldn’t need to confront the idea of “halfway” until my mid-forties.

But today, the news of Tom’s death brought me up a little short. What if my estimate is high? What if I don’t even hit 80? What if I have passed halfway already?

(Take a breath)

(In through your nose, out through you mouth)

(Okay, maybe a couple more to steady the nerves)

Yeah- I don’t really like THAT idea at all. I mean, I love the age that I ended up having children at, it feels like the Goldilocks “just right” age for becoming a mom, but if I start doing a little mathy-poo based on it…

Let’s see, I had the twins at 32. If they have kids around the same age, I’ll be pushing 65 when I start my run as a grandma. Hmm… still okay, but that only gives me about 20 years and that may mean that I won’t get to see a grandchild walk down the aisle to accept a college diploma, to say nothing of a wedding aisle.

(Remember your breathing)

(Head between your knees if you get light-headed)

Noooooooooo. I am not feeling Zen about this at all. The first 40 (or 39.8 at the moment) have gone so fast! And they have been so fun! So good! There is still so, so much to see and do! I am just finally getting the hang of it, for heaven’s sake.

So, what’s the big takeaway from this navel-gazing? It’s time to get crack-a-lackin’! Whatever exciting, important, noble, notable, adventurous, memorable, silly, significant, magnificent things I want to do, they best start lining up, because there is not a day to waste. (This is probably making my husband shake his head- he already thinks I am a Tasmanian Devil of activity, but I think he kinda loves it too.)

So, what’s the big takeaway from this navel-gazing? It’s time to get crack-a-lackin’! Whatever exciting, important, noble, notable, adventurous, memorable, silly, significant, magnificent things I want to do, they best start lining up, because there is not a day to waste.

Tim Robbins famously said as Andy Dufresne to Morgan Freeman’s “Red” in Stephen King’s brilliant The Shawshank Redemption, “Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying.” My question is- if you have hit halfway, are you actually working on the second part of that statement whether you want to or not?

I know I am not the only one thinking about this (heck, it’s the basis for a lot of organized religion) and I am sure some of you have your own little ways of coping with this realization- regardless of the decade you are in. A trick I have employed for years as a runner is to imagine that after the halfway mark in a run, I am just picking up the steps I have already laid down. Easy as that. It makes the second half of a run feel so much lighter to just mentally scoop them back up.

When running, it is a comforting thought to know that there are a finite numbers of steps ahead of you. I can’t say the same of sunrises. It may be a worthy and worthwhile goal to see if you can find some kind of comfort in knowing that there are a finite number of days ahead of you. I know I am not there yet or that I will ever get there, but it’s something to think about- probably while on one of those long runs.

In the meantime, I’m definitely going with the over on this bet.

Thanks for reading and spending a few of your (finite) moments reading this blog. I’d love for you to share your thoughts here and share this blog with your friends.

Cheers! An Argument For Underage Drinking

I recently read Kathy Radigan’s Open Letter to Her Teenage Son About Drinking and felt compelled to respond. Now, admittedly, my twin daughters are not even 7 yet, so their ages don’t even “add up” to a teenager- Kathy has a serious head start in terms of time spent thinking about this subject.

That being said, “underage drinking” is something I have thought quite a lot about, in part because I am not yet so far removed from my youth as to forget how I felt, and in part because I recall observing friends (especially girls) who went into college from very restrictive, sheltered homes, where I saw first-hand the dangerous situations they put themselves in as a result of their naiveté.

I’ll begin by saying that I think the drinking age in the United States should be lower. We are an outlier in our laws relative to the nations we think of as “in our cohort.” In most cases, the drinking age is usually 18 (coinciding with legal adulthood) and in many cases, 16. Perhaps it’s a cliche, but I buy into the idea that if you are old enough to fight & die for your country, you are old enough to drink. There are a few countries that wait as long as we do, including  Pakistan and Tajikistan, but I wouldn’t consider their laws and social mores for young men and women the standards that we wish to aspire to. In short, I think a drinking age of 21 is dumb.

But, like arguing that some speed limits should be higher, advocating for a lower national drinking age is not high on any politicians list; whereas I might argue that it should be. Having a drinking age of 21, sets up young adults for dangerous situations and delays their ability to develop good judgment and experience in a safe environment. It also largely eliminates a parent’s ability to model and teach their children how to drink responsibly without causing the parent to participate in violating the law. I think a lower drinking age would make young adults safer, not the opposite.

We all know that young women in particular, are vulnerable when they learn to drink in college (or just post-high school). A 19 or 20 year old woman is a legal adult, able (and encouraged) to be in school or have a job, live on her own, pay her own bills, etc., and yet, if she follows the law, she’ll be learning about drinking when she is not supported by the safety net of her family and family friends; but instead, when she’ll be responsible for getting home on her own, or when she has to rely on newly formed friendships, or worst of all, on someone she’s just met at a party.

I also think it’s important for parents and teens to engage in conversations that are more sophisticated than “it’s the law, so follow it.” I don’t do that and I don’t want them to. That’s not to say I don’t follow the law, it’s just that I never want my children to abandon critical thinking in favor of blind devotion.

Developing good judgment, learning about consequences, weighing choices, and understanding moderation are all important parts of moving into adulthood. To oversimplify right and wrong, by suggesting that the difference between the two is always clear, is a choice that many parents make out of a desire to protect their children. I think this is a mistake- many choices, even seemingly simple ones, can take a lot of wrestling with- and even then, the answer may not be “right” but rather “the best option among many.”

Another important aspect in this discussion is drugs. There is a huge difference between drinking a beer and taking an unknown pill or doing a line of cocaine. I want them to understand that alcohol and drugs are vastly different and that the risk/reward equation for meth or coke or some kid’s prescription Adderall is so far out of balance as to make the decision a no-brainer. It’s harder to have a mature conversation about the dangers of drugs when you include alcohol, a substance that becomes “acceptable” just by virtue of your age.

I am not suggesting that we’ll be the parents that host parties with alcohol- we certainly won’t be. First off, drinking alcohol should not only be associated with parties, and secondly, we are already teaching and modeling that we must respect the rules and customs of other families. If my daughter’s friend does not eat pork, or watch PG-13 movies, or stay up past 8pm, then they sure as heck won’t be doing any of those things at our house. That’s just parent to parent respect.

But in our house, drinking in moderation, as part of a meal or as part of enjoying an evening with family or friends is not just acceptable, but fun, and (dare I say) healthy. I don’t yet know at what age we’ll be broaching this subject with our daughters- I assume we’ll start talking about it in mid-teens and then it will be “rubber meets the road time” when they approach 18, but I might even go so far as to say that I may be the first person to hand my daughters a beer.

Alcohol, like anything, is dangerous when abused. As the daughter of an alcoholic, I know this better than most, and for many years my “relationship” with alcohol was a strained one because I was so fearful of becoming like my mom, an amazing woman devastated by a terrible addiction. I learned, through sometimes painful trial and error what a healthy relationship with alcohol means and I still respect the danger it can pose.

As our children grow, we face a thousand different choices and have already spent many hours making decisions about vaccines (yes, of course), screen time (limited), nail polish (no), makeup (no), pierced ears (when they are 10), Harry Potter (yes), and short hair (yes, but not too short). It’s impossible to make all the right decisions, but we can try to apply consistent reasoning and judgment, and hope that our children learn from our words and above all- our actions.

So now that we’ve got that out of the way, shall we talk about teenagers and sex?


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