Last night, as I neared sleep, I had started to sink into self-misery. My life has been taking turns I haven’t necessarily been pleased with. But as I lay there, a mental reflex kicked in, something I truly believe I wouldn’t have experienced twenty, ten, even five years ago. My mind made a pleasant yet surprising leap. “Just chill, Sean, it’ll work out,” my mind told me. I was pleased with this. And i slept.
This was a mental reflex based on age and experience. I acknowledged that, at 40, I was able to do this. In fact, every age really teaches us something, doesn’t it? I felt I needed to reflect on this, for no reason other than self-confirmation.
AGE FIVE: What can I say about five? Here we have the three C’s: cartoons, candy, and carefree. What else, really, is there?
AGE TEN: Ah, ten. This was the first instance of understanding the struggle my mother went through for my sister and I. Money, I learned, didn’t grow on trees. That year I begged, and begged, and begged for my mother to buy me a Transformer toy. Bumblebee, I’ll never forget it. “I’m sorry, Sean, I just don’t have the money.” She had to tell me this several times. It took a while to sink in. Her tone, finally, drove the point home; harsh, insistent, near tears. I’ll never forget it. Ever.
AGE FIFTEEN: My father had been gone for some time. My mother had remarried, and I hated it. My stepfather, I believed, was a tyrant. A military man. Despite the vitriol in my veins, I saw that my mother needed someone, just as my sister and I needed her. I acquiesced, and managed to be civil, because I recognized my mother’s need for love. It was the first time I understood how painful it could be to be alone in this world.
AGE TWENTY: Life is responsibility. Life is working for what you want. Life is a struggle. Twenty was a year after a horrific, life-changing car accident. I realized, at twenty, that the universe is unforgiving. It’s a merciless thing. The universe works with you if you work with it. Nothing was going to be handed to me. EVER.
AGE TWENTY-FIVE: I deserved love. I deserved to be an openly gay man in a world that might not ever accept that. I could be myself and never apologize for it. There was nothing easy about this, accepting love; it was a mountain to be moved, a lion to be tamed. I met the Love of My Life at 25 – Keith – and I’m still learning about it to this day.
AGE THIRTY: I was thrilled that my twenties were over. Despite the learning curve, my twenties were claustrophobic and unyielding. I felt like it was one lesson after another. Thirty helped me embrace freedom. Freedom from judgment. Freedom from simply throwing up my hands and giving in. At 30, I began to understand it was important to think for myself, and not what others expected from me.
AGE THIRTY-FIVE: Life offers zero apologies. ZERO. There are no expectations, because no matter what I thought should happen, or might happen, the complete and utter opposite is what did happen. And this is fine. The distinction here isn’t that the unexpected happened, it’s that I was able to deal with it. Not happily, mind you, but dealt with nonetheless.
AGE FORTY: Life will change on a dime, and this is ok. Delilah came in to my life when I was 37, and by 40 she has made me understand that I will forever be facing challenges. I lost my car. I have several health problems that, at 20, I never would have anticipated. The career with Starbucks I thought was going to work in my favor turned out to be a joke. My interpreting career didn’t take a back seat, but I opened the passenger door and kicked its ass into oncoming traffic. Friends and family have questioned my choices, my decisions. I find myself stressing when I shouldn’t be. And you know what: IT’S MY LIFE AND NO ONE ELSE’S. That’s what 40 has taught me.
…and, if I’m lucky, I’ll be learning a LOT more in the oncoming years.