The Path of Life
I recently learned that my column, Boldly Going Nowhere, was tied in popularity with the obituaries at The News. Quite an honor indeed. So I read the obituaries to see why I was as popular as a list of dead people. The first name on the list was a fellow I knew and he was only a year older than I was -- clearly a clue I've climbed the mountain of life and am now skidding down the other side.
Mick Jagger, a Rolling Stone that gathers very little moss, turned 60 last month to enter the Old Codger Phase of life. I have another birthday coming up this week, fortunately still in the pre-old-codger phase. I'll no doubt spend a long day dwelling on my painful past, blessing the present and ignoring the future.
While everyone follows a different path in life, there seems to be a general pattern.
Age 1-3 -- You're a mass of human jelly trying to walk across the room without falling on your face.
Age 4-5 -- You're a helpless squirt being cared for by flawless parents who love and protect you.
Age 6-12 -- You struggle through grade school, making friends and dodging bullies. Somewhere along the line you discover your parents aren't exactly perfect and embarrass you with their mere existence
Age 13-17 -- As a teen-ager, you stumble into your niche as one of the in-crowd or a jock or a nerd or a greaser or a nobody. No matter which category you fall into you're an outcast, but you don't actually realize it unless you're a nobody. You become rebellious of authority and change your hairstyle accordingly.
Age 18-20 -- If you're lucky, you go on to college and party for four years. If not, you marry your high school sweetheart and begin a life of quiet desperation involving employment, raising a family and maintaining a lawn.
Age 21 -- You are now of legal age to consume alcohol, so you discard your fake IDs.
Age 22-29 -- You get a job that's much less exciting than expected and try real hard not to go insane spending five days a week working for some lame idiot. You don't think much about the future, except to fantasize about winning the lottery or writing a novel or sailing around the world or becoming a movie star.
Age 30 -- Your first real zero year. You sense you're in a rut and consider doing something drastic, like switch jobs or switch spouses or join the Merchant Marines. Instead, you change your hairstyle.
Age 31-39 -- You coast along, fairly optimistic about the future. You've acquired a bit of money by now and perhaps have the house and automobile you've always wanted.
Age 40 -- A bad zero year. You ponder deep thoughts about the meaning of life. Material things seem less important and you wonder what went wrong, so you change your hairstyle, reflecting your contemplative mood.
Age 41-49 -- You switch from a fancy car to a practical car. If you have kids, they are going off on their own to screw up their own lives. You begin to read self-help books, buy a treadmill and eat more yogurt.
Age 50-59 -- You put on a few pounds that are now harder to take off than when you were younger. You stop eating yogurt and start eating whatever pleases you the most. The treadmill collects dust in the garage.
Age 60 -- Another bad zero year. You have now slipped across the line to become an old codger. You begin to worry about your health and change your hairstyle from stylish to whatever is the most comfortable.
Age 61-79 -- You have lots of conversations about medical procedures and read the obituaries daily. Your back goes out more than you do and you change your hairstyle one last time, just for something exciting to do.
Age 80-99 -- You smile more often but don't know why and call everyone "Bub" because it's easy to pronounce. Your favorite exercise is sitting, and you now have more hair growing out your ears than on your head.
Age 100+ -- You live in a strange world of young whippersnappers who seem to be from a different planet. You spend much of your time trying to remember things, like your own name and where you put your teeth.
Bret Burquest is the author of The Dogman of Topanga, Goomba in Montana, A Bad Run of Fate and The Eleventh Sage. Available at Amazon.com & elsewhere.