Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dirty 30

And so it comes, the day I've dreaded since I was four or five and learned to count past 29. I'm entering my fourth decade. It's not that I'm unhappy to be older. Hell, I'm lucky to have lived this long since some people die when they're just babies, some when they're 10 and Tupacs when they're 25, and with only half the amount of testicles they started with at that.

But my dark little secret is I've always considered everyone age 30 and up to be an out-of-touch, burned-out fossil. To put it bluntly, a loser. My friends and I used to concur that marriage was the equivalent of death, and age 30 would bring death by natural causes. I doubt that perception was exclusive to me and mine, and it gives me no pleasure to be viewed that way by the young whippersnappers born in the 1980s or (gulp!) 90s. I'll hate them for having contempt for me and my age group, but will be forced to concede that they'll have a point. At a certain time - probably in your mid 20s but definitely by age 30 - the human body and mind begin to fade and slow rather than develop and sharpen. You can make up for the decline with experience for a while, but eventually you just lose it and transform into an incontinent shell of your former self.

The shift doesn't happen at 30, but with that age comes the waning of perceived potential. No matter how big a loser you are in your 20s, you can still write off your lack of success to youth. You're still brimming with possibilities, even if you just sit on your ass all day. For instance, a guy who spends all day playing "World of Warcraft" may be just gaining experience for his career as a video game developer. A guy who looks at porn all day could be preparing for a career in film. A meth addict could just be enduring hard times on his path to one day evolving into a self-help guru. A girl who spends all her student loan money on shoes could be planning on going to law school and making more than enough to pay it all back. And she still gets to keep the shoes!

Once you're in your 30s you can still make it, but realistically your chances of attaining the most garish of your dreams start to drop precipitously. A guy in his 20s with a hard drive full of unpublished books is indomitable and ambitious. But a man in his 30s? More of a pathetic failure. A Kurt Warner steaming on the sidelines, hoping the 25-year-old starting ahead of him breaks his collar bone so he can get another fleeting shot at recapturing his former magic, even though everyone in the crowd knows he'll fumble in the end zone in overtime.

To tell you the truth it isn't only my 30th birthday I've dreaded. Since 18 I've never been happy with sliding another bead on my age abacus. When I turned 20 I regretted no longer being a teenager, and at 25 I missed my early 20s. Twenty-six made me older than Sugar Ray said he was when he came out with "Fly" (even though the lying jackass was 29), and 27 and 28 and 29 were the three strikes I watched whiz by me as Father Time retired the side of my salad days all-star lineup.

Of course, now I see how silly it was to whine about turning 19 or 26 because I'm aware of just how young people of those ages are. I imagine that 10 years from now I'll be writing about how ignorant I was about fearing age 30. Age will surely bring wisdom and perspective along with its increased risk of prostate cancer.

What's weird to me is that now that most of my friends are also 30, they treat it as if it's no big deal. They have the same upbeat attitude of that dope who made the country song "My Next 30 Years." I refuse to be happy with it, even if it turns me into an angry old man. To be pleased that a significant chunk of your life is gone is to disrespect the gift of existence. I'm determined to realize how quickly the sand is draining from the hourglass and act accordingly.

What I need to come to grips with is that each day that passes is a step closer toward the grave, and should increase my sense of urgency in realizing just how short and precious life is. Sure, turning 30 is nasty and depressing in a way, but it's not as bad as 40, 50 or 130 for that matter. I must guard my immaturity with extreme prejudice and work harder at everything I do to make up for the gradual loss of my faculties. If there's truth to the maxim that you shouldn't trust anyone over 30, it's because once people reach a certain age they're done messing around.

Now I have to go. Time to begin life anew and start seizing opportunities. Or play "God of War 2." Whatever's easier.

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