Birthdays hit people different ways. When you’re of a certain age, it’s less about cake, candles and presents as it is how we react to milestone years.

Twenty? Woohoo. Thirty? It’s the new 19. Forty? It’s not as old as it used to be. Forty one? My, how much life has changed in the past few months. That’s what happened on my end about a month ago and as one of my friends from high school wrote in a text message concerning bad news, “We have crossed the threshold.”

I’m learning come 43, 51, 63, this ride is only going to pass by faster while it steadily slows us down. Seriously, it was just a couple of years ago when we were full of energy and cockiness, had each others’ backs thick and thin and seemed invincible, right?

The old calendars, pictures and videotapes argue that was actually 20-something years ago, but they still can’t truly tell the fond stories that will last a lifetime.

No matter how far away from each other life stretches you and your core group of friends during your formative years, distance can’t take away the bonds you’ll have to last a lifetime.

Where it was calling 12 or so people on a home phone to line up a Saturday night chasing new future memories back then, it’s a couple of group text threads asking for prayers and giving updates about a friend’s fight to regain his health.

We have crossed the threshold, indeed. Welcome to the last few years before officially being middle age. We’ve already learned we aren’t invincible anymore no matter how much cocky attitude we may try to show our own ages.

Trying to prove yourself wrong by staying up too late or overdoing it working in the sun and see how it comes back to rear it’s ugly head.

Even though I’ve accepted seeing younger friends get black balloons for their 40th birthdays and having a dentist and optometrist way younger than me, I’m not quite ready to share cholesterol scores and blood pressure readings with friends. It’s already happening, though.

I’m an old soul okay with having friends in their 60s, but personally relating to Master P’s “Miss My Homies” in its true context is coming way too soon.

It was seriously forever ago when I was a kid seeing people rent spaces on billboards and taking out newspaper ads reading, “Lordy, lordy So-and-So is 40.” It was funny and a good way to honor/embarrass So-and-So.

As nifty as 50 seemed back then with other ads, I hope it proves to be just as peachy on the backside of these next nine years.

I’ve got no plans as of now for the big 4-5, nor do I have any idea of how that birthday will hit me.

What I do know, though, is the rock stars we used to stay up late to see 100-something miles from here are going to keep getting grayer and not rock as hard as they once did. Their fans who are entirely too old to dance like that anymore are going to prove 48 is their new 21. Good for them.

Like that song went a few years ago, “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number,” but I really don’t think Aaliyah (rest in peace) meant it this way.

Whether you’re turning 18 or 68 this year, live it as big as you can because you have no clue what the next few months have in store. These birthdays are just numbers so don’t take them too seriously.

When it comes to your core friends from just yesterday, though, have each others’ backs when life does get serious and rear its ugly head.

Ray Van Dusen is the managing editor of the Monroe Journal. He can be reached at ray.vandusen@journalinc.com.

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