There’s this thing I can’t seem to help myself from doing when I’m on vacation. Something I’ve actually done since I was a child, on summer break. It’s that I allow myself to notice the end, recognize how much closer it is than the start.
The first Saturday of a weeklong vacation is so freeing and full of possibilities, regardless of where that week off is spent. Come Wednesday, though, a panic will set in as I realize all the things I still want to do, yet can’t possibly fit in during the little time left.
Turning 55, as I did last September, brought about the same sort of revelation. I imagine it happens to most people sooner — the whole mid-life crisis thing, though I wouldn’t call this a crisis. There isn’t a new convertible in my driveway or 20-year-old on my arm. Still, this way of thinking can be a bummer just the same. I’m too young to recognize myself as being that old.
What triggered this particular line of thought was an article I read about the age when it’s no longer financially practical for a person to go back to college. Completing my education is something I always imagined I’d get around to someday. People like to insist you’re never too old to go back to school. But the truth of it is, there comes a time when you are — at least if you need to recoup your financial investment on the other side of the degree.
Considering the fields of interest to me are completely different from my current occupation, I’d be coming in to a new career at entry level, so it would take a decade or more just to reach the same salary where I am now, without even taking into consideration the student loans I’d need to repay.
Even though returning to college wasn’t in my immediate plan, closing the door to it left me feeling old in much the same way I felt some years earlier, upon realizing I had passed the age where having more children was no longer a sensible thing.
A few weeks back, my friend Mike Kirtner, from Huntington, suggested I consider writing a column on “How old would you think you are if you didn’t know?”
It was a well-timed suggestion, as I’d already been batting around such thoughts. Just a few weeks back, I wrote about a young man I know who is wasting his life because he never expects to reach 30, yet here I am, doing the AARP version of that very same thing.
Still, there are times when I have to stop and do a quick check to remember my age. There are occasions when I feel ageless, childlike. Childish. But not as often as before.
Not as often as I’d like.
I’m still so in awe of this world and this life, still so curious about so many things, that I can’t face the reality that the end is not as far away as it was. That there’s more behind than in front.
So if I were to answer Kirtner’s question, if I didn’t know my actual age, I’d guess myself to be in my 30s, albeit dotted with times I lapse all the way down into the late single digits. Physically, I look (and sometimes feel) not so far from the age that I am, but mentally, I’m fighting to stay closer to the start of my vacation than the finish.
“Age is an issue of mind over matter,” Mark Twain said. “If you don’t mind, then it doesn’t matter.”