This year feels big to me.
I’m halfway through being 35. Maybe that’s why. If there is any youth in me left, I feel like it’s about to eked out in the next few years, like the last blobs of toothpaste in an almost empty tube. I still look almost young, but my hair has started to gray. Wrinkles are coming. I sleep less.
Nobody prepares you for 35. There are no after-school-specials about what it’s like to be wedged halfway between young-adulthood and middle-age. There are no road maps for this time–when the early thirties somehow feel so young and vibrant and nearly-linked to your twenties, yet your later thirties feel so adult and serious and nearly-linked to your forties, and you are smack dab in-between both of those worlds.
It’s hard to describe, I guess. But the feeling of it is starting to make me take things seriously.
I take this new year very seriously because of it. I’m starting to realize so many things. Life goes quickly. Youth fades fast. Energy dwindles. Aches increase. Responsibilities threaten to overtake all of your hours. At this age, the future is now less of an amorphous, seemingly endless expanse of possibility in front of you. Instead, you have begun to inhabit that space. There are other dreams still, but if you aren’t careful, they begin to
take on a different timbre–less pie-in-the-sky and filled with hope, and more realistic (aka,
I don’t care for that. I choose to continue to believe in the power of my dreams. Even the most scary of them.
I have been feeling recently like I’m in the middle of some kind of bridge, or some kind of transition.
I feel it right now, while my family is all together for the holidays. Right now, most of the people I love on this planet are with me still. It feels flimsy and temporary–but also like an amazing gift. It feels like this very rare chunk of time when nearly all of the people I deeply care about are still breathing, eating, living–still accompanying me on this rock. Admittedly, I haven’t experienced much death in my 35 years, and I feel lucky (and also a little bit ill-prepared). My parents are both still here. All four of my siblings are still here. Lolly’s parents are here. All of her siblings are here. All of our respective children are here. My best friends are still here. Most of the people I love with all my heart are still with me.
I know how lucky I am for that. And I have a sense how temporary it is.
I don’t mean that to sound morbid. This is not some prediction of calamity or tragedy, though certainly no human soul will escape those bogeymen.
It’s more like this: last week I was in Coos Bay and I was spending time with my Mom’s mom. She is 92. She is spunky, articulate and refined. She is a farm-girl who wished to leave that behind her when she grew up, and so married my grandpa. He was more urbane and academic and provided well for her, and she never looked back. I sat in her little house on the bay, and I played the violin for her on one of the instruments my grandpa made. I sat talking to her about her daughter, my mom, who is dying. And it occurred to me that besides some of her children and their progeny, all of her people are gone. No siblings. No aunts or uncles. No parents. No spouse. And she will soon lose her second child.
She is, in so many ways, alone. The last vanguard of our clan, a relic and a gift to her descendants, but largely alone in this world. She has no peer-group, no contemporaries. They are gone–all of them.
This loss is something that happens. It is a matter of course. It is part of the cycle of life on this planet. It is natural and filled with grief and tragedy, because it’s also filled with love, and it is the fate of every human who lives enough years: we eventually lose our tribe.
But I am at the opposite end of that. I am an adult looking over that precipice. All of my tribe is still here. We all sit before that great cliff and enjoy one another’s company, and I can see how all of us will eventually leave one by one. But we haven’t yet. We have a few precious moments left where we are all together, where we can all sit in a room with each other and eat and laugh and be a unit. But it will end, slowly and gradually, in a natural progression of loss. And I can see that somehow. I can see how lucky I am to be where I am at this dot on the spectrum of time. I have my tribe now, and it’s beautiful, and it simply cannot last.
I’m so grateful for that gift, and I’m so grateful that most of my family decided to be together this season.
So yes, this is a new year. And I feel the weight of my own humanity. I feel the power of my internal forces urging me to bravely fling myself towards my dreams–even the most terrifying ones–and I also feel the temporariness of that endeavor–the fleeting nature of the seconds and minutes and days that remain at my disposal.
And so I will do it. I will run toward the realization of my dreams, bumbling and tripping and falling all the way. I will not be deterred by the bruises and cuts and scrapes along the way. I will rebuke shame and its internal voices. I will be brave and do hard things. I will take risks. I will do the things I feel called to do, even the ones that leave me breathless with fear. I will speak instead of remaining silent. I will create, and then create again. I will throw my hat into the ring over and over and over in the endeavors I care about, even after met with many failures. I will take care of my body, and I will eat good nourishing food, and I will spend time with my wife and daughters and siblings and dear friends because I know that our time together is finite. I will do the things I love, and observe the beauty around me. I will work hard and play hard and rest well. I will make self-care my clarion song, so that my filled cup will overflow into the lives of as many people who thirst as I can reach. I will give and I will love and be brave and vulnerable. And I will tell jokes and laugh and celebrate and have fun throughout it all.
I am so grateful to be alive, and I’m so excited to see the wonderful things this year holds. I have the feeling this will be an exceptionally big year–probably with really high highs and really low lows. And I’m excited for it all.
Thanks for being there. Happy 2016.
Here’s a picture.