I didn’t need a soothsayer to warn me about today. I have my own personal, slightly homeless looking, ranting, raving, wild eyed lunatic warning me about today – me. And why should I fear the Ides of March? I don’t know anyone named Brutus and I tend to avoid hanging out with men wearing bed sheets and carrying daggers. So why fear the Ides of Mach? Because it’s my birthday. And today is a big birthday – 40.
Et tu Birthday? Et tu?
The weeks leading up to this day have been ridiculously difficult. I say ridiculous because I have been ridiculous – pondering, brooding, moping, despondent, down in the dumps, etc … (thank you thesaurus). Here I have a birthday that reminds me of Julius Caesar, and I’ve been trudging around like Hamlet. I’m not even sure which one of those is a more age-appropriate character for me to play, but I do know that both end up dead.
I am sure I am not unique in this manner … dreading landmark birthdays. Hell, I’m not even unique in my own life – I remember dreading my 30th birthday. This one, however, was tougher. Of course now that it’s here, I feel kind of great about it. And not just because I keep thinking what my Dad says “you don’t like getting older? It’s better than the alternative.” And it is better than the alternative … I’m assuming the alternative is dying. If the alternative is finding some magic potion that allows you to get younger or stay the same age then … let’s be honest, it would be difficult not to take that potion. Even though, unless movies have led me astray, that same potion would no doubt end up ruining my life. Or, in the very least, make me appreciate aging gracefully – OK, perhaps not gracefully, I’m not capable of grace, how about aging trippingly?
So why was I so sad? I think I was viewing 40 as a benchmark year. Like the 7 year review at a law firm – they discuss how it’s been, where you’re at and where you are going. You find out if you make partner, if you’re on the track to partnership or if it’s time to find a new job because you just don’t cut the mustard (I’ve never understood that phrase. Who cuts mustard?). Why the hell would I look at my birthday as a 7 year law firm review, when I left that game 12 years ago? I’m being literal AND figurative here – I literally left a law firm 12 years ago. Upon leaving I chose to follow my passion and become an actor – a slightly less secure occupation. And in so doing, my entire life has changed. That moment, when I left, I left the game of life. More specifically, I left what I had been brought up to believe was the game of life: do well in school, get a good job, get married, have many children, make money, retire, die.
I was very much schooled in a Milton Bradlian theory of LIFE. Remember that game – LIFE? According to that game, I’ve failed. Miserably. My little plastic car is flipped over on the highway, my stick figure wife has run off with a real professional and my own pinhead avatar was last scene trekking across the small strip of black tape that frames the board, leaving the game behind for good. The game is so very far behind me, but it haunts me. Sometimes. The game, the life I left behind still reverberates with me. I suppose it is to be expected – I spent the first 28 years of my life following the rules of the game – the rules and the judgment are bound to strike out at me. Especially since I’m not sure what the rules are for my present game. Maybe there are no rules. Maybe it’s not a game.
My struggle as of late has been entirely focused on what I’m not. What I haven’t done. What I don’t have. I suppose there is a time and place for that kind of thinking, especially if it helps get one where one needs to be or should be. But for me it has been fatalistic, unrealistic, and disrespectful. Yes, disrespectful – disrespectful to what I am, to what I have done and to what I do have. While in this whirling gloom of self deprecation, in this angst filled tempest I’ve created for myself, I have walled myself off from what may the most important thing in this world – the people in my life. My family and friends. I am so very blessed to have people in my life who care for me often times more than I care for myself. I will try not to question it, and just let it be. But if a man can be judged by the quality of people in his life, I’m a winner. Nothing makes me realize this more than my birthday. Despite my attempts to close myself off and avoid the day, I have friends and family determined to drag me out into the light and celebrate. To celebrate my life. What I have done is important, yes, what I may do is important, but what and who I am, it seems, is what we are celebrating. Who am I to ignore that?
So I’ll embrace 40, I’ll embrace the hell out of it. 40 is the new 20, that’s what people have been telling me. I’d like to say 40 is the new 21, this way I can drink, but don’t bother me with trifles. I know its ridiculous, it’s just a matter of thinking right, “there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Hamlet said that. Well, William Shakespeare wrote that for the character of Hamlet to say and it is magic. Of course, I understand that I am quoting a character that, despite saying those words, spent most of his time in his own head, contemplating his own grief, his own inaction, his own shortcomings and the injustice of the world. It’s also not lost on me that this character, in an effort to do the right thing (find the truth, avenge his father) pushed away the woman that loved him for all his imperfections and drove her mad. This is a topic for another time. For now, on my birthday I say … 40 is great. I will think it good. I will love 40. I guess I’m like an age whore, I’ll fall in love with whatever stage of life I happen to be in at the time, simply because its there. Sure part of me would rather be 30, but 30 isn’t giving me the time of day and 40 … well, 40 is right there, not looking so bad, and she is so into me. Sure, I may look back on this later and say “what an ass I was when I was 40,” but now I vow to be gloriously in love with the age I am. It’s the whole “be here now” mentality or the “live in the moment” idealism or the “if you can’t beat em, join em” somewhat defeatist attitude cleverly disguised as a t-shirt.
Beware the Ides of March? No, I won’t beware, I’ll bewonderful the Ides of March. HAHAHA, that is the most horrible sentence I ever wrote. And that is saying a whole lot.