On Friday I'll be forty-four years old. Written out like that, it takes me aback just a little. That's a patently adult number. And outwardly at least, I may look like an adult. I have a mortgage, kids, cars, a job, positions of responsibility.
On the other hand, I didn't start my career until ten years ago. So I still feel quite junior in that respect. I'm still on my first home while many of my younger friends have traded up one or two times. I neglect important matters of health and money and preparing for the future all the time, matters that I tend to think more adult people take care of routinely.
The dirty little secret of being decidedly middle-aged, unable to be plausibly mistaken for young anymore, is that you don't feel as old as you look. Oh, maybe the eyes don't see small print anymore like they used to; maybe there are aches and twinges. But you remember what you used think separated the oldsters from the youngsters: the former claimed to know what they were doing.
At least in those terms, I still feel like a bumbling kid. But I also feel young in a more accomplished and positive way -- I'm still learning new things, and I'm excited about developing my skills in new directions. Working with college students helps; being a technophile helps; teaching in an academic unit that values initiative and innovation definitely helps. Becoming a knitter in my forties, gaining the ability to cloth and adorn myself and those I love and care for, makes me feel brand new in the world.
At times I know that I'm in the middle of my life, and heading towards the shorter end. Those are the times when I feel like my time is filling up and running out, when I see moments as precious and few rather than copious and abundant. But there are parts of my life with plans that keep burgeoning instead of fading into the distance. I may be solidly ensconced in my forties, but in some ways, I'm still climbing upwards and seeing more and more as I rise.