It was around 2003 or so, and I was at a thrift shop with some friends when one of them came to me holding a t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “thrilled to be 40 – NOT” in the gaudy, color-clashing style we all remember so well from the early 90s.
“You have to buy this,” the friend told me, and of course I did. I was like 23 years old, and the 17 years between me and 40 felt more like a million. It was, to view things through the lens of a stupid young person, absolutely hilarious.
I got a lot of mileage out of that shirt, but as those 17 years crept – and then sort of started jogging and then broke into a full run – by me, so did my midsection. That is to say that even though the shirt still sits folded in a drawer somewhere, it doesn’t fit quite as well as it once did. It’s really not all that damn funny anymore either.
“Great Zuul,” I’ve thought to myself with increasing frequency in recent times. “This shirt only has three years left.”
Then it was two. Then it was one. As of this writing, my thrift store purchase from all those years ago holds about 15 days of personal relevance before I turn 40 (as of this posting, it’s down to less than 24 hours. Gulp.). So, I’ll obviously be needing to get rid of that stupid shirt. What hilarity does it portend now? None that I can see. Now there is only doom. LOL.
But it’s also a big whatever. Age is just a number and all that. Even a truthful look back at those 17 years since the shirt came into my life reveal a reel of film that hasn’t moved nearly as fast as I tend to remember. A lot of good has happened: I changed careers twice, founding the company that publishes this here newspaper you’re holding in your hands. I met my favorite person in the whole world and we got married and bought a house together. I recorded a lot of songs and released some albums and played a lot of shows. There’s been bad too. I lost my dad and my last two grandparents and too many close friends I hadn’t seen enough of lately. All the sudden I’m describing life, right? Weird how that happens.
I wonder a lot about whether the person who got rid of that shirt was thinking the same things as me when they did so (if that’s the case, that person is probably thrilled to be pushing 60 — NOT). Who can say? Why do I waste time thinking about these things? Either way, I wouldn’t say I’m not thrilled to be 40. I mean, most people wouldn’t mind being 23 again, but I don’t think spending a whole lot of time looking backward does anybody any good. I’m thrilled to have made 40, and to have experienced all that I have up to now.
I’ll pull that shirt out and wear it for my birthday. But then it’s off to the thrift store. Hopefully some other kid who thinks time isn’t gonna go by enjoys it as much as I did.
Gordon Anderson was born in San Jose, California on the same day, according to Wikipedia, that NATO offered the Warsaw Pact a mutual limitation of medium-range ballistic missiles and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Jimmy Carter was still the president. Send taunts about his age to firstname.lastname@example.org.