This past Sunday I celebrated my 40th birthday. Not surprisingly, the days leading up to it were filled with more than a little angst. On the one hand I realized it was just another birthday. But this one did seem like a more significant threshold. I remember when my Dad turned 40: I remember the black streamers and the "over-the-hill" coffee mugs. Even though that sort of thing (thankfully) doesn't seem to happen anymore, the anniversary of my birth did initiate some self-reflection.
I think what it boils down to is this: I don't feel like a middle-aged man, but that's exactly what I am now.
As we go through life we develop definitions of who we are as people: we construct narratives that help us understand who we are. But these definitions change over time. Stories that once may have been true have to be jettisoned once we realize they are no longer accurate. For example I once thought of myself as a nerd who couldn't get a girl to go out with me. Although there may have been some truth to that in junior high that definition ceased to be relevant once I was married and had two kids.
Now that I am 40 there are other narratives I should likewise abandon. I am no longer a young upstart. I should no longer tell myself that everything I do is preparation for something big. That something big is the life I am living now. I am incredibly grateful for the good friends, the good family and the good health that I have now and I'm excited by the good work I have the opportunity to do.
That isn't to say I'm ready to settle for what currently is. I want to stay hungry and continue to try new things. I want to continue to actively change the definition of who I am. This isn't anything new: I did plenty of "new" things in my thirties. I became a licensed architect when I was 31, a father at 33, a small business owner at 36, an author at 37 and a podcast producer at 38. There's no reason to suspect that I can't continue to do these sorts of things as I make my way into my fourth decade - I still have lots things I'd like to become (astronaut, bounty hunter, ventriloquist, etc.).
So even though I may be middle-aged, it's up to me to define what that means. I chose awesomeness.