Yesterday a friend asked, “When did 7:30 p.m. start feeling like 10:30 p.m.?” to which another friend immediately answered, “This is how the 30s go.”
I wish I could tell her it was probably just lingering jet lag from a recent trip, or the winter blahs, or effects of the high altitude where she lives.
But the truth is our mid to late 30s feel like that first minute when you try to drive the car with the parking break still engaged. You’re moving, but slower than you think you should be, and all the younger drivers are honking at you to speed up, and you don’t know what’s wrong. Only when the bell ding-ding-dings and you notice the dashboard light flashing “Brake On” does the problem become clear. Except here the flashing light reads, “You’re 35.” And there’s no disengage lever.
But with that downshift in speed and endurance comes (hopefully) some self awareness. We notice our slowly declining limitations, but we also can laugh hysterically at them rather than get depressed about them. We fondly recall times of staying up partying till 4 a.m. the night before a final exam and then playing volleyball for 6 hours immediately afterwards and still feeling great. Then we laugh at not even attempting such a feat now. We know we can’t do it, and in all honesty, we don’t want to be able to do that now. We’re perfectly content to catch an early movie and have a glass or two of wine with dinner, then call it a night. Why? Because we enjoy getting up in the morning and not having to ask ourselves why did I do that?
We no longer need to prove our super-humanness, our stomachs of steel, or our capability to function without sleep for 36 hours straight.
You think I’m not cool anymore because I’m not slamming shots at the dance club till all hours? I don’t care. I really don’t. Nor do I care that I stay in most Saturday nights, and that I really enjoy spending them cooking a great meal and organizing my closets over going out somewhere trying to impress people I don’t know with my designer clothes or an inflated story of my job/friends/travels/money, which was such a ridiculous staple of my 20s.
I wanted to kiss my 42-year-old friend the other day when she said, “I am so unattached to being thought of as cool. I’m sure that as hard as I have worked to be cool I’ve done so many things to blow my cover.”
This girl is one of my coolest friends, and that comment doubled her coolness ranking. She gets it. She does what works for her, is honest and doesn’t hide behind an expected persona for approval of the masses. She laughs at her own shortcomings and always leaves me in a good mood when we part company.
Yes, Gen X is getting older. But I also believe we are getting calmer, funnier, more sincere, and genuine in ourselves. We’re less willing to waste energy or brain space on activities or people that don’t positively influence our lives, and we’re more apt to recognize and appreciate the deeper qualities of our friends. At 37, I’m far more willing to drop affiliations with people whom I don’t trust or don’t have anything in common with than I was at 27 or 17, when all that mattered was who other people told me were the right people to know.
If I’m having my last glass of wine at 7:30 p.m. tonight instead of 10:30 p.m., I will do so toasting my fellow Gen X-ers who are doing the same. Let us laugh at ourselves cruising through (early) middle age with the dome light on and my Edie Brickell cassette still playing in the radio. Cheers!