Whether I like it or not, it’s happening. In less than two weeks, if God willing I keep waking up north of the dirt, I’m going to be 40 years old. What I’m figuring out more each day since my 40 day countdown began, the whole concept of 40 feels so much stranger than I thought it would. I think I’m getting hung up on the IDEA of being 40 more than I am about actually chronology of being on the planet for 40 years. It’s not dread or some type of weird mortality thing. I don’t feel like I’m going to wake up arthritic, grayer, balder or more crotchety than I was the night before. No, it’s even stranger than that. I think I’m hung up on the idea of saying that I’m 40.
In a stereotypical sitcom sort of way, I remember as a kid thinking 40 was really, really old. Growing up in the late 70’s and 80’s like I did, guys in their 40’s were a different breed. They came up in the 1940’s and 50’s. They all seemed to have that Mad Men era, high and tight pomade saturated hair cut, button down shirt, wife better have dinner on the table when I get home sort of vibe. There was this strange but tangible line of demarcation in the adults that you interacted with back then that were in their 30’s and those that were in their 40’s. Be it teachers, neighbors, your parents’ friends or even your own folks – the “cool” adults were in their 30’s. Children of the 60’s. Laid back. Said things like “Little Man” and called you “Brother” even if they were your Math Teacher. There was a chasm between those generations that really made 40 feel like it was the “cool” cut-off.
As I try to slide into decade number four as gracefully as possible, I look around at my fellow Gen X’ers who are on the same journey and can’t help but wonder what the kids of today must think of us. Do they even know where we’ve been? Will they appreciate how we came up? How will they view what we’ve seen and how it shaped us?
We were the last generation to grow up without the Internet, but the key generation to help create it.
We grew up with the threat of Nuclear War hammered into our heads at school, on TV and in our movies. The Cold War cast an angry red enemy hellbent on ending the world at a moments notice.
We heard the death of Disco and the birth of Hip Hop. We were New Age and Techno. We watched our Alternative go mainstream and our mainstream get auto-tuned. All the while Rock and Roll changed, but it never went away.
We stared when the President was shot, the Challenger exploded and the Towers fell – all on our TV.
We saw video games move from the Arcade to the living room to the palm of our hands.
We were told to Rock The Vote, Say No to Drugs and Just Do It.
We lived with a fear of AIDS and the reality of Cancer.
We saw the last generation’s greatest musical poet lose his life to a mad man’s bullet and our generation’s to his own.
We went from three channels to 300 and there’s still nothing on.
What an amazing run we’ve had. Look how much we’ve seen and done. And this barely scratches the surface. We watched as technology helped our voices get bigger and the world get smaller.
Those 40 year olds when I was a kid… pfft… they were lame! They were never in a mosh pit. They never crowd surfed at Lollapalooza. They never had a $600 set of speakers in a $300 car. We hit a level of cool that they could never imagine.
So… how do the kids today see us at 40?
As much as I hate to say it, just like it was when we were kids, 40 still looks pretty boring when you’re decades away. No matter what we’ve done. No matter what we’ve seen. No matter how cool we thought we were. 40 through the eyes of adolescence looks exactly the same as it did when we were that age.
Who cares what they think? We know the truth, right? We know how cool we
were are. Let them think whatever they want. And, if it makes you feel better, it’s not because we’re 40… it’s because they’re not…