When I was in my 20s I used to look at the older guys at work – the guys in their 40s, with their receding hairlines and expanding waistlines – and shudder, and try not to think about my eventual fate.
Yesterday was my 45th birthday. Fate has a way of catching up with you.
Except that I like being this age. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to my 20s – you couldn’t drag me back there kicking and screaming.
It doesn’t hurt that somehow I still have all of my hair and that I weigh only about ten pounds more (and my friends tell me I was too skinny in those days). But more than that, I have the maturity and wisdom to handle challenges that baffled me 20 years ago. I am much more peaceful and content.
That’s not to say 45 is all wine and roses. I have bigger problems now than I did in my 20s, mostly because I chose to have children. (Bless their little hearts.) Providing for them and making sure they’re well and loved has challenged me in ways I never could have imagined, even if you had told me.
My body has changed, too. I used to have a blast-furnace metabolism. I know I was unusually blessed, but I really could eat pretty much anything I wanted in any quantity with no consequences. No more! If I don’t limit my intake, soon I can’t button my pants. Also, the foods I choose now have a direct and often immediate effect on how good I feel. So my diet has shifted from pizza and cheeseburgers to fish and chicken, fruits and vegetables.
I can’t run as hard and as long as I did then, either. I used to stay out with friends until 2 am, sleep a few hours, get to work by 8 am, and have plenty of energy for the day. Now I turn into a pumpkin at 10 pm and if I don’t get at least six hours of sleep, preferably seven or eight, I’m a zombie.
But I find the tradeoffs to be more than fair. So far, my 40s have been my best decade so far.
A few recent college graduates just joined the company where I work. I’ve been working longer than they’ve been alive! But if my experience is typical, their best is two decades ahead of them.
This may be my best decade, but the pinnacle of my career happened when I was in my 30s. Read that story.