I turned 39 this month. So far, it doesn’t really feel that different from 38… that’s what everyone says when they’ve just recently had a birthday.
I think a lot these days about getting older. I know that everyone ages at their own pace, and there is no right or wrong way to live, but it’s hard not to feel like I’m not a normal run-of-the-mill 39-year-old. Many of my age peers are dealing with things like being parents of teens and preteens (and even parents of young adults, in some cases), and I’m… not. Furthermore, I didn’t start a family at the normal age, but I started my career teaching at an unusually young age. So I’m in this awkward time warp, where I have former students who are in their 30s, and yet I’m still in my 30s myself. (I taught these students when they were 15 and 16 and I was 23 and 24, right out of college, if you’re trying to do the math.) There are around seven or eight students from that group that I’m still in Facebook contact with, and sometimes I see them post pictures of them with their spouses and children, or occasionally I see them in person, and it feels like they grew up and I didn’t. They’ve become adults, and I’m still pretty much living the same lifestyle that I was living at 23 when I had them as students, although I’ve moved a couple times (but all within northern California).
It’s hard not being a normal run-of-the-mill 39-year-old. My church is currently taking signups for new small groups that will be starting soon. I’ve been having some big questions on my mind lately about whether or not I need to look for a new church. That’s another issue for another time, but I didn’t want to make a final decision without checking out these new small groups. Part of the problem is that I feel disconnected from the rest of the community, and a new small group might be the answer to that. But I walk into the building today, I see the signup table, and the first thing I notice is that the groups are separated according to the same old tired categories that I don’t fit into anymore: couples, young couples, families, senior citizens and empty nesters, singles (the singles group at my church is a de facto divorced and widowed group, I know from experience), etc. There were a few mixed age groups, which I ended up signing up for, but there just aren’t a lot of guys my age who have never been married at big suburban evangelical churches.
But not being at the stereotypical place in life doesn’t have to be a bad thing. For one thing, it makes me feel like a time traveler. It makes me think particularly of the beginning of series 7 of Doctor Who, when Amy and Rory aged a few years in between each episode. The Doctor would bring them on another adventure with each week’s episode, but in Amy and Rory’s timeline, they had lived a few years of normal young couple life since the last time the Doctor saw them. More importantly, though, I’m living my life on my terms and being myself. Many of the most memorable figures in history didn’t conform to society. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I’ve had a lot of experiences in my 20s and 30s that wouldn’t have happened if I had started a family at 25. So I’m hoping to spend the last year of my 30s continuing to be myself and make the best of it, whatever that looks like.