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Birthday

So this is forty. All in all, it seems very much like thirty-nine, or thirty-one, or just about any other year, really. I did my share of celebrating over the last few days because I felt like I deserved it, but honestly, I don't feel different at all.

Maybe this is one of those things that takes time to settle in. Maybe once all the accolades and congratulations and good wishes die down and everyone returns to normal life, the questions come: Now what? What does it all mean? Why is this the birthday everyone makes a big deal about?

When I was younger I thought forty was a serious turning point. I don't know what I thought would change exactly. Maybe the tooth fairy was supposed to come drop off some dentures and a box of Polident, and you'd wake up on the morning of the big day with a head full of gray hair, or no hair at all, if that was your lot. And in the mailbox would be an instruction manual on proper conduct befitting a forty-year-old citizen, written in an effort to keep the codgers on the right path and ease the tension between generations. And you'd have an insatiable desire for Geritol.

I remember the day I turned eighteen. I woke up just knowing something magical was going to happen, some defining moment when trumpets would blare out and a mighty voice would bellow, "You are an adult now." It didn't happen, so I thought maybe it would come in a few days, or a week, or a month. Graduation came and went, I left for college, and that moment never arrived.

I'm still waiting for it. And I guess I say that in the sense that it's not really a moment exactly as much as it is a process. An ongoing one, I'll add; even at forty I'm still not completely sure what I want to be when I grow up. I think I'm closer to knowing than I was at eighteen, though probably not by much.

Thus, I am now waiting for that "you're an old man" moment, and it will never really arrive — instead, it will be another process, one which does gray my hair (underway, actually), and which does bring things like dentures into my life (not yet, thankfully). It will happen a little bit at a time over the years, and it will all just be a part of me, and the next thing you know, I'll be celebrating my eightieth birthday and remembering the day I turned forty.

And hopefully, still wondering what I want to be when I grow up.

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