When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year, not least of all because I'd finished my term of active duty with the US Army. ("Decent bunch of people overall," I reckoned, "but do I really want to go through more of this?") Turning thirty, let alone forty, seemed like a fistful of eternities away. Today, though, forty is far away, but in the other direction — in fact, tomorrow I'll be closer to fifty than to forty.

It goes against my grain to think of this as a milestone — millstone, I think, comes closer to the mark — but the halfway point of any decade seems to have a resonance of its own, whether I want it to or not. When I was twenty-five, I was newly married and not adjusting all that well to it. When I was thirty-five, I was newly divorced and not adjusting all that well to it. Now, at forty-five, where the hell am I?

"Aha!" says the reader. "A mid-life crisis waiting to happen!" Not so. My life for years now has consisted of a series of minor irritations, punctuated by major anxieties; there's no place in the schedule to fit in a full-fledged crisis. And it wouldn't matter a great deal if I could, since I lack both the resources and the resolve to do One Last Great Thing while there's still time. Besides, I'd have to do it alone — not even Triple A would be able to help.

And it really doesn't matter a whole lot anyway. Most of us are not destined to do Great Things, and many whose ambitions exceed their capabilities manage to wind up looking exceptionally foolish in the process. This is not the way I'd like to be remembered, assuming I will be remembered at all. While I don't have a problem with thwarted destiny, I have a built-in resistance to looking foolish, which perhaps explains the restricted nature of my social interactions. It doesn't, however, explain why I've kept up a Web site for almost three years, so obviously this premise still needs some work.

The Vent

#126
25 November 1998

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 Copyright © 1998 by Charles G. Hill