Today I turn 34. I am happy about this because last St. Patrick’s day I realized that I was part of the other crowd. I think my exact phrasing was “I’m no longer one of the people who matters, I’m just an old guy.”
I had gone to the bar with some of the people I worked with. One of them was a girl I had been on a couple of dates with and I had hoped having a few drinks together would be enough to loosen us up and spark some sort of chemistry. She’s a really smart girl but the conversation always seemed laboured. Anyway, my brother was in town visiting his friend Clif and they had ended up at the same bar. Des and clif are older than me and all of us felt the same “we don’t belong here” feeling. We left fairly quickly after we realized that everyone there was a lot younger than us. It was a very difficult moment for me because I had been sensing that I was becoming an old guy for a while – I hadn’t sent a single text message, I didn’t have a myspace page and I didn’t enjoy getting drunk at a bar any more.
On the way home they asked me what was going on and I told them that today, I was old.
I didn’t get the girl either, there was no chemistry.
But what I did get was better. I got my peace of mind about who I was. I was forced to accepted that my looks were fading fast and that my youth was gone. It was tough that night and the next day, I was pretty depressed – it wasn’t a “turning 30″ depression because it lingered through the next day until I stopped by my brother and sister in law’s place. When I talked to Des about how I was feeling and about the lack of chemistry with the girl he let me know that I am a reflector, that I tend to go into conversations as a blank slate and take on the mood of the other person. If they are engaging or open, I will follow suit, if they are closed and withdrawn, that’s how I will be. The end result is that how I feel during a conversation is basically how the other person feels during the conversation. I hadn’t noticed this until he brought it up, but once he said it out loud, it was obvious that it had been that way all along.
That was a year ago yesterday and I regard that day as the start of the best year of my life so far because once I realized that my youth was gone I became free to just be whatever I am instead of trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be. There are much lower expectations of immediate success when you aren’t counting on your looks to help you close any deals. I had a new appreciate of hard work because what I do became more important than what I am.
At least, as I look back on the last year, that’s how I see it.