I used to have different parties “back in the day.” My Saturday nights of yesteryear were spent a lot differently than I spend them today. There were bars and clubs, an accidental rave, an old-fashioned keg run to get to. Now I am pleased when I can just stay home. I got a calendar alert about a party I said I would go to and I sighed with regret that I ever said “yes.” I just picked up a new book and was looking forward to getting some time to just read this weekend (The Alchemist. I heard good things about it). That’s my preferred Saturday now—a much safer one too.
I think back to my wild past and think how lucky I was in so many ways to have made it home safely and at all. I would never do most of the things I did when I was younger. Like the speaker in “On Turning Ten,” he realizes his mortality.
“It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.”
What a catch. We beg for the youth to be careful, then when they suddenly gain this knowledge themselves, we mourn the loss, a bit, of their fearlessness. But life is the greatest teacher and the luckier we are to live it, the wiser we get. There is no going back to regain that innocence.
Thinking about the lessons of life, I thought, being 41 myself, it would be fun to ask people to tell me one life lesson they learned by the time they were 40 years old.
Here’s what I learned that they learned:
“Its better to listen than be heard,” my husband.
“I think I expected things to magically change at 40. But they didn’t,” my friend.
“There’s no longer the ability to do (alcoholic) shots, and I stopped dancing on bars,” my sister (Honestly, I’m pretty sure, at 51, she still engages in both. I don’t know who she thinks she is fooling).
“Don’t trust anybody, not a freakin’ soul. Live and love hard,” my brother (Having a complicated relationship with my brother—this advice revealed so much to me).
“I’ve come to learn that I create my own reality and am responsible for my own happiness,” my sister-in-law (Do I think she is happy? I will answer my own question like this— she is married to my brother (see above)).
“You learn you should have appreciated your younger body more because your body starts breaking down, more aches and pains, vision goes, stretch marks…” a second thought from my sister-in-law.
“Well, I was apprehensive of turning 40. I spent all of my 30’s worrying I was not going to last to my 40’s. My own father died when he was 40. So when I made it, I was surprised and didn’t want to take it for granted so I started walking for exercise and playing golf and gardening and mowing my own lawn. I just kept moving to stay healthy. Now I am almost 78 and have no apprehension about turning 80. I think because I never thought I would be here. So whatever happens, I’m pretty content I pulled this off…,” my father.
Then, my father, continued with an elaborate comparison to my old dog and how, like the old dog, he tries to live in the moment and then he went to tell me how tomorrow he will have his paints and his easel and be ready to paint the sunrise.
“You are painting now?” I asked.
“No, I’m being metaphorical,” he answered, “now go put that on the Facebook.”
I reminded him that I don’t have Facebook. He said it was a good thing he didn’t either because his pontifications would put everyone else’s to shame.
So, read Collin’s great poem “On Turning Ten,” and how well he captures that sad moment when we realize our mortality and lose our innocence and then cheer up thinking about the unwavering confidence you will gain by the time you are 78 years old.
You can read “On Turning Ten”: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/on-turning-ten/