This week, God willing, I will have the great honor of turning 45 years old. It’s an odd number but feels like a milestone.
As one of my children (who shall remain nameless) said the other day: Dad, you’re halfway through your life, and that’s if you live a long time.
Maybe this is as good a moment as any to lift up my head from the day-to-day and take a look around at the landscape of a race that’s at least halfway over.
Like the flock of geese flying urgently south this week as summer changed to autumn (my son and I counted more than 80 of them before they left our view), the momentum of passing time has both direction and speed.
There are also peaks and valleys.
I recently read an article saying that as people enter their 40s, they hit a “decade of despair.” It cites studies saying that the “midlife crisis” is real, not just in the United States, but around the world.
“It has even been detected in apes at an age equivalent to a human 45,” reporter Chris Taylor writes in Mashable.
It seems that many folks this age are plagued by voices in their head telling them they’ve wasted their lives and should move or quit their jobs immediately (although the voices never quite mention where they should go or what they should do instead.)
"The downturn is gradual, gentle, but cumulative, and it sinks into a trough, a frequently years-long slump when instead of savoring our accomplishments we question and reject them," journalist Jonathan Rauch writes in his 2018 book “The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50.”
However, this downturn appears to be temporary. It seems that many folks feel a surprising rejuvenation around age 50.
It turns out that in our 40s we look around and think, “is this it?”
Then in our 50s we look around again and realize, “actually, this is pretty good.”
So to my fellow folks in their 40s, I’d encourage you not to make any sudden moves out of despair. Your feelings aren’t quite being objective right now. Maybe it’s not your job, your marriage, your house and everything around you that’s wrong. Maybe it’s just teenage angst, round two. The chemical juices in your brain need a couple years to get themselves in order.
It’ll get better. If those of us in our 40s are really getting “over the hill,” that means the uphill slog is almost over and a nice downhill stroll is ahead. Don’t lose heart now.
"Forty is the old age of youth; 50 is the youth of old age," is how Victor Hugo put it.
So I’m old for a young guy, and young for an old guy.
I can handle that. Bring on the cake and candles.
The Book is Back
Observant visitors to the Chehalis Timberland Library might have noticed a pretty young girl sitting alone on a bench by the fountain, her hands wide open, pointing into her empty lap like she was texting on an invisible cell phone.
The girl is made of bronze, and she was originally put in place holding a big open book.
Shortly after her installation, the book was wrenched away, presumably to be sold for scrap.
The girl has been patiently waiting for another book to read, and now she has it.
Thanks to Bishop Road Machinery, the city of Chehalis and Friends of the Chehalis Library, a new book was put in place this week.
My first thought upon receiving the good news is that her loss three years ago was not for naught.
The book theft, while lamentable, happened to come at a perfect time for me.
I was involved with helping our community build a statue of George and Mary Jane Washington to be placed in the center of Centralia, the town they created 150 years ago. Part of the statue design had Mary Jane holding a map of their town as George held out his arm over the expanse they had envisioned together.
It was a lot like the Chehalis book, and I worried it was potentially also vulnerable.
As soon as the poor Chehalis library statue lost her book, I told our sculptor, Jim Stafford, and we passed on the word to the foundry in Tacoma — make sure you lock down our map!
They were in the final stages of putting together the statue, so the warning came at just the right time. I know they were going to make sure it was well-secured, but I like to think the theft of the bronze Chehalis girl’s book encouraged them to lock it down even more.
They also were wary after someone had also recently stolen the bat from out of the hand of their statue of Ken Griffey Jr. outside the ballfield in Seattle. (That bat is also back, with extra-strength anchoring).
So far, I’m thankful to say, Mary Jane’s map is firmly affixed with no nefarious nabbings reported as of yet.
With the girl in Chehalis now having her reading material back, we can all rest easy that there is a happy ending despite a few plot twists along the way.
Really, that’s all we want out of a good book, right?
Brian Mittge would welcome any advice on enjoying his middle age. Send your tips, tricks and over-the-hill anecdotes to firstname.lastname@example.org.