Your life is like the clock at a football game:
- If you’re age 0-20, you’re in the first quarter;
- At 21-40 years old, you’re in the second quarter;
- Age 41-60 is the third quarter;
- 61-80 is the fourth quarter; and,
- 81+ is overtime.*
*Though actually, the game can end at any time: I’ve known people who never made it out of the first quarter. I bet you have, too.
So today, I’m halfway through the third quarter. Today, I turn 50.
When I was younger, I never imagined myself being 50. I didn’t know my father when he was that age. To me, 50 was old. You’re eligible to join AARP at 50. It’s gray hair and wrinkles and arthritis, and getting ready for retirement. It’s not that far to 55, which was how old Bruce Wayne was in The Dark Knight Returns, one of my favorite comic books when I was in college.
But here I am at 50, and…I don’t feel much different than I did when I was half my age. Or even younger.
I mean, sure, I *am* different. I’m not scrawny any more (I was 98 lbs as a freshman in high school, and even when I graduated, I only had a 28 inch waist). I’m not as spry (it was humbling to find myself juuuuust missing those shots I would routinely return in tennis). I’m much wiser (young men, I learned through personal experience, start developing brains at 27: start being the operative word). I can’t eat late at night, or else I get acid reflux that makes me understand why people with certain illnesses would prefer to end their lives rather than go on another day. And I have to shave more often (5 o’clock shadow really is a thing).
I have a wife and kids and degrees and a house and cars and lots of bills (paying for my girls’ college takes a WHOLE lot more than it did paying for mine). If you had told Teenage Me that at 50, I would be getting up before dawn every day to commute to a government desk job, Teenage Me would have cussed you out–and cussed out 50-year old me (then again, what the hell did Teenage Me know?).
But even though chronologically, I’m 50, mentally, I’m not. It’s not perfect, but I have an incredibly comprehensive long-term memory: for example, I remember being a toddler and climbing out of my crib one morning while my parents were asleep.
As a result, the past is very vivid to me, for good or ill, and I often visit it. There are jokes I heard 25 years ago or even longer that are still funny to me. There are memories that are still exhilarating or still gut-wrenching. I have clothes older than my kids (for a while, when it was a thing, my girls wore my concert t-shirts to school). I have books and knick knacks that I’ve had since I was a teenager, or a young boy, or even an infant.
When I sleep, my dream-self is usually in my teens or early twenties, sometimes back in school, sometimes at jobs I haven’t held in decades. Often doing things–skateboarding, playing D&D, noodling around on a guitar–that I haven’t done in ages. Hanging out with friends and people whom I’ll never see again.
So I look grown-up, and I have all the trappings of a grown-up, and I (mostly) have the mentality and discretion of a grown-up (thank God). But there’s a big chunk of me that has seemingly never grown up. That’s still much, much younger.
And maybe that’s not all together a bad thing. Maybe that’s why I prefer to write “young adult” fiction. Developing the characters and getting inside the heads of Isabella from Dragontamer’s Daughters, or Buddy from Lost Dogs, or Alyx from This Wasted Land (my latest WIP) came very easily, very naturally for me.
I angsted about hitting 30, but my thirties worked out well. I sweated turning 40, but my forties were the best decade of my life. Fifty makes me feel like I’m at the top of a slide lined with razor blades–it’s just pain and suck all the way down–but I’m trying to be cool with it. It’s midway through the third quarter, but there’s still plenty of time left in the game. If I play it right, there’ll be overtime.
And along the way, there will be family and friends to cherish and enjoy, adventures to be had, books to write, places to visit or revisit (Joni, our daughters, and I will be going to London soon; the only time I went was when I was 16).
Let’s do this fifties thing.
Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy. His latest work-in-progress is This Wasted Land, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in early 2017.
Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief. He also wrote Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.
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