They used to call this age “over the hill”. I categorically reject that notion. Forty is the new… what? Sixteen, is it? I haven’t really kept up with what is what, and what means what. It does not really matter. I’m still having fun. I have kept some notes along the way, and I wanted to pass some of them to the younger ones. Because you guys are EVERYWHERE!
They called us Generation X, the children of the Boomers. The ones after us are called Generation Y. The next ones after will have a different name, and so on.
We thought we owned the world, and we did for a little while, until 9/11 and then the recession, and the world died a little bit around us. We thought we would live our dreams, and we did for a little while until the daily grind of existence forced our hand. We thought ourselves invincible. And we were. For a little while.
You will not believe any of this, because the inevitable curse of youth is that the elders have nothing important to say. And the inevitable curse of the older generation is carrying the bits of knowledge that the younger ones will never heed.
You will have your fashion just as we had our flannels and combat boots. You will have your music, and you will think of it as the first to truly understand, to change the face of music forever, the first who really gets it… just as we had said about Kurt Cobain, and our parents said about Elvis and the Beatles. Whatever you listen to in your teens and twenties will be the music that you one day refer back to as “the last of the good music”. They don’t make it like they used to. We all have said it. You will too.
You will have your youth, your heart will get broken, you will make some messy mistakes, you will live, you will love, you will be hurt and you will feel joy. You will question your upbringing. And then you will question what ever caused you to question it in the first place.
One day you may have kids, and you will find yourself saying things you only thought your parents said. One day you will wake up to find that you don’t really care what kind of ‘statement’ your clothes make. One day you will look in the mirror and see that all of your hair is its natural color again. You will discover that whatever job you have, you have had for quite some time.
There are things that you have been told that are not true.You may have been told that it does not matter if you are a nice person as long as you follow the rules. This is not true. It matters if you are a nice person. It matters very much. Showing kindess to others is most important. The person receiving the kindness does not care why you are being kind, simply that you are.
Follow your dreams. The economy is improving, but it is still in the toilet. Being ‘responsible’ by having a day job will not pay the bills. So if the bills are not getting paid, it might as well be while you are doing something you enjoy.
Dig in. Life hurts sometimes. Find a way to cope with it. Life is also wonderful. You cannot have one without the other. We believed we could change the world. And maybe we did a little bit, just as our parents did, and just as you will.
There is no such thing as being too old to wear black eyeliner, or pink lipstick, or bold print flowers, or leather miniskirts, or Madonna’s pointy bra (though most of you are too young to get that reference). The point is if you are comfortable in something, if you feel good then go for it. Follow your instincts. Trust your gut. If something seems too good to be true then it probably is.
There. That is everything I have learned so far. There is more yet to come of course, so stick around. I’ll write another one of these when I’m 80. Oh, and one last thing. It’s all real. All of it. The conspiracy, the fairies, the dragons and monsters. Everything you have ever thought to be out of reach is there, just around the corner, just over your shoulder.
Go find it.
This forty year old.