Right Where You Are Now

“When I grow up, I’m going to be a trillionaire, and you are going to be right where you are now!” said an angry Zach to his dad.

How easily a seven-year-old kid can chill a grown man’s soul.

Zach’s taunt goes straight to the heart of unspeakable fear of middle age: This is it. The best you are ever going to be is right where you are now. And right where you are right now,  quickly approaching fifty, is not where you ever dreamed you’d be. Not even close.

I spent my youth cultivating dreams. What kid didn’t fantasize that she would grow up to be a millionaire (back before the wealth gap made mere billionaires irrelevant) or a famous writer, or simply well-known and better-liked than she’d been in high school? As we got older, those dreams became more modest and concrete in their intentions.  After a few glasses of wine, one friend confesses a long-held secret plan to live in Paris, at least for a little while. A peripatetic artist tells me that he dreams of coming home to a house instead of an apartment, and seeing a light on at the window because someone inside is waiting for him.

Our forties mark the last, best, chance to make those dreams come true. They are latest reasonable years for white weddings and fat babies; the last chance for promotions that say we’re still somehow climbing the corporate ladder. Our late forties are the last time we’ll get to start over in a new place with the idea that someday, here, we will have old friends.

This is sobering news. It leaves me breathless to think that my life is now composed of middles and endings, not beginnings.Forty-nine is a map of reckoning, marked with a big, red arrow that says “You Are Here.” It’s not where I imagined I would be.

And I am terrified of a life in which I might remain here, fixed but still aspiring; trapped, in Zach’s words, right where I am now.

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Comments

  • Lindy  On June 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Mistinguette, at 58 I’ve taken on a new dream, it maybe more reachable than the musical choreographer dream of my preteens. I think 49 is a beginning, the beginning of life without those horrible feeling of shudda and have to, now. YOu won’t remain there, believe me, your life is just really beginning. Oh God, when did I become so positive?

  • Jerilyn Willin  On March 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    No, no, no…49 is not the end of beginnings unless you want it to be. At 49 i was beginning to live again cancer-free, re-building my business, feeling young and most importantly…alive!

    Children (teen-agers in particular) don’t realize that just because you look older, the dreams and feelings you had when younger are still there and most of them are still do-able. Ok, I can’t be a ballerina now at 57, but I was over the hill for that at 30.

    To whoever wrote that blog post–open your heart and your mind to the possibilities before you.

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