This week’s instalment of Muscle-Bound is late because I wanted it to correspond with my birthday. Today, at 11:25 AM, I hit 43, and the impact wasn’t as bad as I expected. Allow me to explain. When I was younger, my aspirations were as follows:
1) Publish my own novels/fiction
2) Lose weight
3) Get in shape
Sure, there were more things than that, but they were on the forefront of my thoughts. The “write my own novels” was always there, burning a hole in my ambitions and marking the line where I distinguished success from failure. When I was in my 30s, I swore I was going to get my own novel published by 40. Now I’m 43, and surprisingly, I feel nothing remotely close to failure for not having done that yet.
I suppose I’ve skirted my mid-life crisis, but I’ve remade myself and changed my attitudes so often that I’m not who I was a year ago, five years ago, a decade ago. I’ve had mini-crises, and in those years, I made promises to myself that I’ve kept:
1) I stopped making jokes at the expense of my friends.
2) I brought my temper under control and get less frustrated at matters.
Two simple changes have made me like myself more, and while weight loss and weight training remain an ongoing process, I’ve managed to keep this promise of a healthier me so far as well. And I’m happy with it, which is one of the reasons why I’m content to be 43.
But getting back to being published by 40 (and then 41, 42 and 43), there’s a realization that came this past year. An internal cease-fire, if you will, between id, ego and super-ego. Some people could say I hit my goal by getting five novels published for Vampire, Warhammer 40K and Dragonlance, but that isn’t the reason for my sense of… peace. While I’m happy for what I wrote and what those novels taught me, I still have my own stories to tell.
See, 43 has become an arbitrary figure in terms of my career and my path. Previously, I saw my early 40s as an indication of personal failure if I didn’t get novels sold, but against what milestones was I measuring that assessment? My friend Joe Rose was murdered for being gay and he was in his 20s. My friends Eric, Emru and Dean, and my mother all died of cancer before their time. I have seen friends failing to health issues at a young age and, conversely, spoken over the Internet to my 92 year old grandmother in Cairo. So why am I assigning an arbitrary year and an arbitrary age to my success? I may die tomorrow, or I may be around to see what life in 2060 is like.
The fact is, I’m a healthier 43 year-old than I was a 35 year-old. I don’t know what the future brings just like 6 months ago I didn’t know I’d be 40-pounds lighter. My age is subject to what comes next… to what I do next.
In the 43 years that I have lived, I have been inside the Pyramids, Petra and Pompeii. I dove for my Scuba exam, 35 feet down and without a tank to rescue a diver. I have walked through locust swarms and seen albino cockroaches swarm a man. I watched a lake of oil burn. I have stood in the middle of Ste-Catherine’s Street, a snowstorm blotting out a blacked-out and near abandoned Montreal at night, the snow piling dunes of white against the ghostly buildings… and felt my breath stolen at its beauty.
Forty-three years. That’s one hell of a prelude… I can’t wait to see what the rest of the show brings. So, for my birthday, I offer you all the following piece of advice:
Live today like you have a tomorrow.