Fifth Decade

Last week I turned 40. I’ve been getting ready for a while. Mostly I’ve been studying up on this clip by Louis CK so I’d know what to expect.  

I felt like I was in pretty good company with the 40 thing. I’m still friends with a lot of people from high school and college, so they’re all turning 40, too. Also the college I work for turned 40 this year. Also Saturday Night Live and the fall of Saigon. So that’s a lot of us entering our fifth decade. 

The very awesome thing about never doing anything athletic until you’re twenty-eight years old is that you get to enter your forties in waaaayyyy better shape than you entered your thirties. I am stronger, fitter, healthier, happier, and I’m pretty sure better-looking than I was when I was thirty. I basically expect I’ll be even more of all those things when I turn fifty. 

There are a few things I have gotten worse at throughout my thirties, though. They are:

1. Taking risks. When I was in my twenties, I took risks all the time. I think that’s all I ever did. I moved across the country to go to graduate school. I abandoned my scholarly career to work for a community college. I took weird pills people gave me and walked drunk down railroad tracks. It was easy to take risks in my twenties, because when you’re new at adulthood, everything is a risk. No matter what you do, it won’t be something you’ve done before (unless you’re going to live with your parents and work at a gift store for the rest of your life). You’re completely panicked and terrified all the time no matter what.

In my thirties, I had to really force myself to do risky things, and when I did, I wasn’t acclimated to the terror of it anymore. Like when I did a kickboxing tournament, I broke out in hives that lasted for months afterwards. My conditioning for terror is totally shot. I could probably work on getting it back, but I just can’t tough it through all those hives. 

2. Drinking. I used to be really good at this. Now I suck at it. Totally lost my motivation. 

3. Wanting to find a life partner. That seemed really appealing in my twenties. Somebody to always be there for you, now matter how crazy you were being. In my thirties, I got to understand the other side a little better: someone you always had to be there for, no matter how crazy they were being. (And someone who bore the bitterness of putting up with all your craziness). I realized I’m really awesome at taking care of myself. 

4. Moving. In my twenties, I moved at least once every two years. I always hated it, but it had to be done. I was moving across the country, or I was moving in with a new roommate, or I was moving in with my boyfriend or moving out with my  boyfriend. I hated the moving, but it did make me get rid of a bunch of crap every two years. It also helped me divide time in my head. I would remember what year an event occurred based on what apartment I was living in. I lived in the same apartment for all of my thirties, and I have no idea when anything happened. 

That’s it. There are probably more. I could make some kind of resolution to get better at these things, to take more risks and want a life partner and move and drink more. Or not. Maybe I’ll start with the drinking. 

On the other hand, I am much better at these things compared to a decade ago: writing, uppercuts, teaching, poetry, drawing, patience, balance, roundhouse kicks, alliance, pull-ups, taciturnity (not good but better), burpees, flexibility.  So I think it’s a decent trade-off. 

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