It was not until my 30’s that I understood my age. I don’t mean that philosophical construct of experience and temporal maturity- I mean that feeling of how old one actually is and what that means. For me, it was realizing those minor indicators of getting older: scars that don’t miraculously disappear; skin colors other than my natural tones; veins appearing where I really didn’t think they mattered before; nights out on the town that ruined the following day(s); and, most of all, the inevitable questioning of my life’s position and proper meaning.
People say the hands show signs of age first. My hands are odd. They have the appropriate number of scars from assorted activities, certainly. They are calloused from years practicing music- electric bass, to be exact. They are fairly soft, from a lifetime spent avoiding manual labor and the proper exertion of physical toil. They are small, insignificant members to me- not that I have any belittling opinion of them, simply that I ignore and neglect them on an almost ritualistic basis.
I don’t think I ever looked at myself until my 30’s either. Mirrors were a reference for my appearance or a medium for self-referential communication. One day, I looked in the mirror and saw the image of a person with whom I was not particularly familiar. A “lifetime” spent observing details about myself was not the same as trying to identify the individual looking back at me. Staring back at me was a stranger- not because I did not understand him, but because I understood him completely without engendering any proper intimacy. Having grown up in this skin, I never appreciated what that meant.
Who am I? What is it, exactly, I am looking at? And, more to the point, is that person looking back at me someone I really like?
I consider it well within my power to change certain aspects of myself- my demeanor, my dress, my social habits, and so forth- but can I really effect change of my own personage?
I grew up “mature for [my] age”. I associate well with my elders and older contemporaries. I hope that I contribute to their lives in some small way- they certainly contribute to mine. And, yet, suddenly, I feel my age. I do not associate myself with being “old”, but I feel the trials of the road so far. I have not emerged unscathed from my travels, but had not given them their proper dues until now.
For the first time in my life, I see some small glimpse of where I’m headed and it disturbs me. I am not unhappy with my path- more so, I am confused at what happens next.