For as far back as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of growing old.
At an early age, it manifested as a fear of lost time. I threw a temper tantrum when I got to an Easter Egg hunt late, because I’d never be able to catch up to the other kids. My mom found me crying on the stairs one morning after I realized I’d spent the whole morning watching cartoons – half the day gone doing nothing. I don’t know what caused it (but being lulled to sleep with Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” can’t have helped).
As I grew older, I pestered my parents with questions about what Heaven would be like. Would I be stuck somewhere? Would I have to do the same things over and over? They answered as best they could. When I gave up religion at sixteen, I was struck for a while with a terrible fear of death. My biggest concern was losing a train of thought – imagining something really interesting, or assembling some great idea, and then never coming back to it. Since then, I’ve lightened up a little. Death is equally permanent to everyone it calls on, so there’s no sense worrying about it now.
But growing old still scared me. Not just the physical and mental decay, but losing things. I recall stumbling shell-shocked out of a production of James Joyce’s The Dead at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Hawver was up, so I stopped in and flopped on his couch. I rambled about death and loss and innocence. Being a good friend, Hawver took my blathering in stride.
I was twenty at the time.
Over the last few weeks though, as the next big milestone has been staring me in the face, I’ve taken an inventory of the self. And I’ve realized I’m no longer quite as scared of growing old.
What’s changed? The love of a good woman has certainly helped; always one of my chief impetuses to grow spiritually. Having a demanding job probably contributes. I may bitch about the hours, but if I vanished overnight there’s a modest book of business that would probably fall apart (for all the good and bad that entails). More of my friends are now over thirty than under it, and they set a good example for me. My lifelong dream of writing has become less of a dream and more of a concrete goal, with steps and a timeline. And, the occasional sprained back or sinus infection notwithstanding, I’ve got my health.
I’ve got some money, but not a lot of capital tying me down. I have experience but not regret. I have opportunity, but I’m not locked into a path. And I think I’ve finally figured the haircut thing out.
Thanks for waiting up for me. See you on the dance floor.