Back in the 90’s a popular song by the late Aaliyah, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” was a hit. This was a line that was said so much in my younger years that I grew to be so annoyed at the statement. It held some truth, you are as old as you feel. We as Individuals believe this but do we really believe this as a whole people? I only ask this because we still put stipulations and stereotypes on certain ages. As I’m nearing 40 I can honestly say I believe it’s nothing but a number but my body and society are saying something totally different.
- The Job Market
I have been working, in some capacity, since I was 14 years old. I used to cut lawns and plow snow for my grands until I was old enough to get a job. My first job was at Macy’s, my dad was working there and got me the job, proving the statement it’s not what you know but who you know. From that point I was in retail. I got accepted into college and during the summer of 2001 I would return to work at Macy’s the next year.
After Macy’s I spent the next summer not working. Out-of-state fees at school were tearing me up. I could not find a job. After spending months filling out applications and going to interviews, my aunt got me a job as a substitute teacher. Two years later I was working at Kohls and was there for years until my best friend got me a job at a Behavior School. I worked both jobs for years. I literally was at work from 7 am to 11 pm Mon – Fri.
After six years of both jobs and 8 years at the behavioral school I moved on. After a year in an affluent school district I got a taste of what it felt like to work somewhere where you got paid a nice amount and got raises. My next job was in another school district and let me tell you it was my best job.
SO! Why did I tell you all this, well, I was struggling to find a job recently in a time when employers say they need employees. During my time in the workforce there have been 2 consistencies, I have always had a person on the inside and I always had prior knowledge of what I was getting into. Unfortunately I got stagnant. As soon as I said enough (with a little prompting from my wife) I noticed how hard it is to branch out of what I am used to. Also I have a lot of knowledge to bring to the table and it’s hard to find a place who will pay you for that knowledge.
I wonder if I was 25 or 30 would I have struggled as hard to find a job? I’m learning form people like my wife, brother and my sons god parents to make my own lane. I don’t need to work a 9 to 5 to maintain my finances.
2. My body
When I did martial arts Si Fu Mike Lee said something that will stick with me to this day, “When I was younger I did things like a young man. I felt I could do anything. It was all about my speed and athleticism. As I got older my body wouldn’t do the same things. It became more about timing and my knowledge”. No truer words have been spoken.
My body is not what it used to be. I am a small thin guy, so how do I have a dad gut. Where did it come from (like I don’t know, LOL). I ache randomly. If I don’t eat or drink enough water, I get an instant headache. My joints are popping and I feel like I’m running a physical and mental marathon trying to keep up with my wife and son.
Up until the pandemic I was always doing some type of physical activity. Martial arts, basketball, baseball, track, going to the gym, teaching physical education for at least half the time I’ve been in education, and church (LOL, look some churches are equal to running a marathon). All that and my body is like, “Look, the check engine is on, take it easy”. Now I know some of you are asking, “What about your diet”? Um…, it’s not the greatest but it’s not the worst.
Think about this. Usually people put in 25 years before they retire because by then you are considered old. A job really can’t afford you in your position and no other place will pay you the same amount. All things eventually break down. Jobs know that after 25 years of service you are done or are pretty close to it.
In today’s society we are working past the breaking point of our bodies which is good. But also bad. I have talked to teachers who have been in education for 40 years. That means they started right out of college at the age of 22. Let’s be real, 25 and out is a myth that only applies to a very small percentage of jobs. I just pray that my body will be intact so I can at least hold my grands.
The up side is that I’m still at an age where I can turn some things around. Forty is apparently the new 30. I see friends and celebrities’ (Ryan Reynolds, John Cena, Keri Washington, etc…) who are still killing it well in their forties and past the age of 40. Some celebrities’ didn’t really start their careers until 40 or older (Samuel L. Jackson, Dame Judi Dench and the Late and great Alan Rickman and Betty White). Some things (and people) just get better with age.
3. My Mind
At this age, I’m trying to think less. My memory is not what it used to be. Yes I have a wealth of knowledge but what if I could remember all the other stuff I forgot over these past 39 years. It’s so hard for me to learn new things. I am becoming a little stuck in my ways and it does annoy me.
In my lifetime I remember the transition from dial up to fiber optics to wireless. From pagers to cell phones to cell phones (touch screens). From VHS to DVD to Streaming. From Desktop to laptops to tablets. From tube TV’s to Flat screen TV’s. From gas cars to electric cars. From books to newspapers to blogs. All these things happened in my time on this earth.
My mind is fried, I’m sorry, but again, I don’t want to think about anything. Basic living requires me to do too much as it is. Also if you don’t have crazy amounts of money you have to be overprepared to make sure you can eat tomorrow which requires me to think some more.
Think about this, when my mom and dad were born the only transitions they had was from a track to cassette, beta max to VHS and new technology was introduced like Nintendo and desktop computers. BUT, it took 30 to 40 years for them to see all these changes. I saw all this change in 10 to 20 years. I was only 20 when I got my first cell phone. By the age of 25 my phone went from buttons to touch screen. It was totally obsolete within 5 years. Where was my generation’s time to process all this to process the blinding speed of this changing world? Hence my mental exhaustion. Just because I’m tired doesn’t mean I’m not capable. At this age I just choose to not overload myself.
My mental health has also become a major thing for me. I used to not care about a lot of things. I love my family but we are a unit and I did not have much to think about in terms of them. I knew who would do what and where we all were at all times. Then I got my own family and had to be responsible. God, I’m not cut out for this. I was raised pretty much in a traditional setting. My dad was a workhorse and I did not see him much and my mom was a just get it done, type of woman. Me, I’m laid back and a sort of go with the flow type of guy. Having setbacks while single and home. Who cares, having setbacks with my family, oh crap. It really affected me mentally. I would recommend that anyone over 21 have someone to talk to even if things are going good for you.
I can say I have become a little more in tune with myself. I have no one but my wife, friends and family to thank for that. Gone are the days when a man just existed to work. They have challenged me to find my purpose, express how I really feel, try new things, chase my dreams, and be proud of who I am.
Life is interesting. The older you get the more it tests you and tries your patience. It’s a merciless black hole and Garden of Eden all at the same time. Ultimately life is precious. I feel I have wasted a lot of time doing things that didn’t matter. Honestly I do regret a few things. One of the biggest ones was not saying certain things at certain times.
See as we get older we are given a beautiful gift, hindsight, we have made so many mistakes, and have also found out what works. I try to “pay it forward” by being honest with my students and giving them some insight on their problems they have brought to me. I will hopefully see them use my knowledge, grow and be better as they get older
I look like I’m 28, I dress like I’m 34, I act like I’m 25, I play like I’m 20 and I talk like I’m 50 years old. These are actual statements people have said to me. Society loves to box us in a category. People, in general, only go by a certain thought in their minds that they are familiar with. I have seen people learn something and throw the lesson out the window and revert back to what they feel comfortable with. I’m definitely guilty of that.
The biggest comment I tend to hear lately is, “You are almost 40 and you don’t know that?” Apparently I don’t if I’m asking you about it. People expect you to know certain things at these milestone ages. As a kid it’s, aw, it’s ok, you will get there. As an adult it’s, “What’s wrong with you, why don’t you know that?” Growing up I learned a bad habit of just keeping quiet and minding my business. In some cases this way of thinking works. BUT! There are so many questions I wished I had asked. Like when somebody says you scored in the 90th percentile. What does that even mean? I had to look it up and it still is a pointless saying to me. Can’t you just say you scored in the top 10%.
My point is you may look and feel young but some people will label you by how they think you should be.
I do feel like I have a lot of years ahead of me. I also feel like I will retire at 75 (lol). I looked up the top 10 leading causes of death around the world. Heart disease and strokes were always in the top 10. Do you know what can lead to heart failure? Poor diet, lack of exercise and stress. I am coming up on the age where I’m getting a little fearful of stuff like that. But! I will do my best to prevent those medical issues. It’s just very hard to do when your 6 year old asks for something basic and you can’t give it to him cause you don’t have the money. Following right behind that feeling is stress. SO! You work more and more only seeing moderate success in your life and that you have spent less time with your loved ones. That’s our great system at work folks. It’s like we as people keep trying to polish the same turd. Throw it out and just start over. If I could leave just a few words behind or a thought it would be, “Change the world for the better. Change is good. It may be uncomfortable, but your kids and maybe their kids will thank you for the change you made”.
I do know one thing regardless of my age I will push to be happy and be me, flaws and all. I define my age. Call me a big kid for still watching anime and playing video games. Call me old because I have no idea what these new music artist names are. I call myself blessed to see so many years and I’m far from done.