Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Missing Year

I was at lunch with a friend the other day and we started talking about driver's licenses. In the course of looking over mine, I mentioned that I was 47. My friend pointed out that was wrong. I was dismayed to learn that I'm 48.

I've lost an entire year of my life! Poof! Gone in a moment's realisation. I've been cruising along thinking I'm 47, going on 48 later this year. But no, I've already got there and am now just a short skip from 50.


This has been causing me all kinds of existential angst ever since.

How many of you are familiar with the concept of "mental self image." What that means is that when you look in the mirror the face you see looking back almost always isn't the actual one, but a sort of idealised version -- minus the fat, the wrinkles, the bags, etc. Teeth straight and white. Head full of hair, styled perfectly. No nose or ear hair. Same for your body. When you close your eyes and picture yourself, it's not the body you have that you see but the body you wish you had.

In my mind, I'm still 27. Believe it or not, that's an improvement for me. I used to see myself as 18. I managed to fix that in my thirties. But ever since, I still think I'm a "young man" and not "middle aged." When I walk past reflective glass and see the enormous belly I carry around, it is always a shock. Every time. I just don't accept that it's there.

Now that 50 is nearly in my reach, I suddenly realise just how far off track I am. Not that I ever wasn't aware. I've never married and have no kids. Haven't carved out a career or built up a retirement account, nor paid off a house note.

I'm where I've been aiming (OK, drifitng...) but now, all of a sudden, it's starting to feel like I've misaimed. I have a feeling my mental self-image is about to undergo another adjustment.

And damnit, I'm suddenly beginning to feel old. And out of place. Badly out of place.

It's unavoidable I suppose, but I certainly don't like it. Not one jot.

Not at all.

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