July 2, 2013
I just leveled up to 40.
Being 40 years old is a big deal. Anyone who pretends otherwise is kidding himself or herself. Some people dread it, some people love it. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a little of both. What can I say, my 30s were pretty damn good.
Forty is roughly halfway to the average life expectancy for a guy like me: age 81. It’s mid-life. I’ve already outlived about 5% of other men born in 1973.
The older I get, the more I consider life to be like a role-playing game. You start gaining XP as a baby. You add skills, more XP and grind your way through relatively mundane training (finger painting, elementary school). Eventually you choose a class (job) and realize/choose an alignment (personality) and that is primarily how you are known. You also acquire gold, upgrade your equipment and possessions and grow more powerful or skilled in your class.
Some people have taken this to an even more practical extent. In case you’re wondering, I don’t sense a midlife crisis coming on. Those erupt when someone realizes that they don’t like their class, alignment, equipment, relationships or approaching mortality. Not me: I’m pretty much right where I want to be, give or take. I don’t feel the need to embark on an epic quest that I otherwise would never do just because my time is half gone. I’m not the climb-Everest-bucket-list type.
I have accumulated a lot of XP and developed several skills in my classes (I’m dual-classed, BTW, writer and policy analyst). My level 40 powers are pretty awesome. I have been consistently lawful good and have upgraded my possessions quite nicely since I slept on a futon-foldout chair in grad school. I think Wendy and I are close to the sweet spot of maximizing our living standards without having work consume our lives. I have contributed in some small way to the future and to others’ happiness.
Yeah, I’m a little dinged up here and there physically but am in better overall shape now than in most of the last 40 years. I plan to pour more effort into maintenance (in terms of exercise, eating and mental stability) to see if I can run this body until my grandchildren are planning their own retirements.
As for mortality, well, I realized long ago that the universe is completely unconcerned with fairness, justice or a narrative arc. Those are aspects of humanity, not of reality. On average I should expect another 40 years, but it could be over tomorrow, or in 6 months, or in 65 years for them or me. Innocents die all the time and it doesn’t matter how good you are or healthy you have been. Evil Nazi bastards in their 90s are still hobbling around Argentina while kids died in Sandy Hook last year. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.
So, Level 40. Midlife. By the time you reach midlife, you hopefully should have some idea of who you are and how you want to live the rest of it. I do, but I’m not telling you the details. I don’t think of how much of my life span is gone, I think about what I can do with the other half (if I’m lucky enough to have it). Maybe it takes living for 40 years before you realize the enormity of what you can pack into that time, and what you are really suited to do in that time.