As I approach the ripe old age of 40, something is occurring to me more and more these days than ever before – there are many more people who are younger than me than ever before. Translation: I’m old…er. One of the reasons this fact becomes more and more obvious the older we get is that our sharpest memories happen in the first 20 years of life – so childhood, highschool and for many of us, 4 (maybe 5) years of college. For this reason one can find oneself in a spinning class where the twenty-something instructor introduces a “throwback” song in the form of Katy Perry’s “Firework” or Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition.” To the instructor, these songs remind her of singing at the top of her lungs with her 5 besties in the Prius that one time…or of the first time she was felt up. Either way, it was like, SO long ago. On the other hand, these songs remind me of…I don’t know, fucking yesterday??? Didn’t they just come out? Why is it exactly that when you’re young time seems to take forever and now it just flies by? And, more importantly, how do we slow it the fuck down?
When you think about it for a minute, the why is obvious: the first 20 years of life are full of nothing but firsts. Starting with just the things we remember and skipping over first steps and all that jazz we’ve got our first day of Kindergarten (and our first day of every grade thereafter), our first pet, our first F, our first medal in tennis, our first cheer camp, our first vacation, our first time overseas, our first sexual encounter, our first good sexual encounter, our first heartbreak, our first major loss, our first graduation party, our first wet T-shirt contest, our first time getting drunk or high, our first job. Nothing but firsts, all wrapped in shiny newness and naivete. These 20 or so years are just bursting with high drama and anticipation. Combine all that with the physical advantages of youth and you’ve got yourself a banging couple of decades to refer back to for the rest of your life. For many of us, excusing some relationship and life hiccups along the way, we settle into one career, one sexual partner, one best friend, one house, one internet provider, one cut of steak, one brand of underwear. On one hand we can argue that we spent all that time figuring out who we were and what the best choices were for us and we made them accordingly. On the other hand…BORING.
So how do we make the back three-fourths of our lives interesting (and more memorable) without joining some type of traveling Mormon band of gypsies? It sounds so cliché, but I really think it comes down to trying new things and making a commitment to get unstuck from our routines once in awhile. As you know, travel is a big part of my life and I do think these amazing trips I take each year make the rest of the year more palatable and more enjoyable. Outside of travel, however, I am one of the best nay-sayers around. Sean is the spontaneous one in our household and I would probably do well to emulate his enthusiasm for the unplanned aspects of life more often than I do. The other thing is, the opportunities for firsts in the early phases of life require almost no effort on our parts. We don’t choose whether or not to show up for the first day of school or to get our first job. If the choices aren’t made for us, then they’re at least staring us in the face. Creating an effervescent, thrilling life in your 30’s and 40’s takes real effort and real energy. I definitely do not have all the answers and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter because I want a full lifetime of good old days and throwbacks. I’d love to be able to hear a song from 2012 and think, “Oh my God, Katie, do you remember this one?? That was, like, SO long ago.”