Today I had Lunch with a colleague of mine who celebrated her thirtieth birthday last week. We were talking about the significance of this milestone, both legitimate and illusory.
At one point she was lamenting her age, and lamenting the Age in which we lived; she told me that she thought that “things” had only begun to worsen, and that her thirties would surely be harder a decade than any she had ever know before.
Wondering at all of this (both at the implied premise of many of her assertions as well as their following implication), I thought it best to liven the mood a trifle. I referred to the fact that she had known only a meager three decades thus far, and that even if her third should become gloomier than those that preceded it: “Two out of three ain’t bad.”
No sooner had I spoken these words when a peer of ours happened by and overheard our dirge and mirth-making. An older and wiser gentleman than either of us (recently having turned 60), he listened for a moment before offering a thoughtful counterpoint to the above sentiments.
He mentioned that when he was thirty, times were equally hard… if not more so. That real estate was worth a fraction of what it is now. That inflation and unemployment were each at near-overwhelming heights. That, due to destabilizing events in the Middle East, there was a fuel shortage and gas prices were at record highs. That hard-working families were struggling to make ends meet.
“Conversely,” the man continued, “my parents were still alive and I could visit with them every other day if I chose. My children were little and still at home, but now they are grown up and busy about the business of their own lives. Many old friends of mine have either passed on or moved away,” he said, “and not a day goes by where they’re not missed.”
I thought on this for a moment… I cannot look back the span of thirty years with any deep insight for, in 1979, I was still a bawling child clinging to his mother’s skirt.
However, I thought I might take one decade back instead of three. To look back to something as recent as ten years prior…
As the 20th century was coming to an end, the American economy was floating upon the “dot-com bubble” of the late 1990s. Gasoline was under a dollar a gallon, jobs were plentiful. The Soviet Union had collapsed and there was no real threat to domestic tranquility… or so we thought.
Ten years ago I was within driving distance to almost everyone that I knew and loved. Yet, I was held captive by an overwhelming urge to go, to go, and just GO. To get as far away from everyone and everything I had ever known. Familiarity had bred contempt, seasoned with a wanderlust whose appetite had been roused by the wanderings of my youth.
“…and the wind keeps rolling, and the sky keeps turning gray
and the Sun is set, the Sun will rise another day…”
Now I yearn for that long-forgotten familiarity. Not as a burdensome shroud, but as a quilt of warmth to stave off the chill of isolation.
Old friends call out to me from coaxial wires across the great divide. Already have I begun to grapple them unto my Soul with hoops of steel.
My family also, as the children have all grown and begat children of their own. I am called “uncle” and given other charges to keep.
So on this day, a bitter white day at January’s ending, I pause to consider these things within myself.