December 25, 2017 will be my final Christmas. Come January 16, there will be no turning back.
As a man who openly struggles with mental illness, I realize the time bomb that many think of as depression might be tick-tocking louder in your ears on my behalf. I get it. Anytime someone with my disposition makes such a claim like a final Christmas, loved ones fear the plank will be walked voluntarily. That said, I will get to the point now that I have your…uh…captain hooked.
You may ask, to where will you be going, my writing friend? Well, I will tell you, my reading friend.
I will be doing some growing up. Yes, growing up. I’ll be leaving the Neverland of my twenties and entering the nursing home that sits behind a rickety sign that reads “The Thirties.” I will no longer have the time nor the youthful energy to enjoy Christmas festivities such as opening gifts, giving gifts, baking cookies, eating cookies, or feeling nostalgic in the sultry vocals of Nat King Cole. No sir. This Christmas will be last. By the joyous day, 2018, I’ll be knee deep in end-of-the-year budgeting, or something adult like that. I’ll be polishing off my thirty-first year in preparation for another step toward the edge of this adolescent earth.
In addition to foregoing juvenile activities in favor of adult responsibilities, I will begin again the charade of having it all together that I so proudly donned in the march into my twenties. After all, I have a whole thirty years under my belt, and I should have figured life out by this time, right? Of course. Even Jesus, the cherub in the manger, peaked at thirty-three, and he knew his mission long before then. After dying for all of mankind, he woke up to live on until he was…I don’t know…infinity. So, at thirty, certainly I should be near perfect or at least three years away from it. And, even if I’m not perfect, I will live as a whitewashed tomb of a man, practicing my display of strength and wisdom, and concealing the rotting skeleton beneath.
Yes, thirty, here I come. Lay down like the red carpet into adulthood you are. I will tread upon your fibers confidently for I have learned all there is to learn in my thirty years. Just. Like. You’re. Supposed. To. And if I haven’t learned it all yet, I sure as hell will pretend I have.
Well…except for the fact that in my thirty years, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that aged wisdom comes not necessarily from having your life figured out (marriage, children, career, beliefs, etc), but by the ability to admit to yourself and to others that you still have so much more to learn. Life is indeed a journey–it’s cheeky, but it’s true. The more I learn, the more I realize how much more I have to learn. I’m young enough to be a fool, but old enough to be a wiser one.
My friend, Thelma, is ninety-some years old, and she is still learning, laughing, loving. I talk with her and I see the crown of wisdom on her head, the resume of wrinkles on her skin, and I hear the voice of humble experience enrich her every breath. And when she, of all people, shares with me the lessons she is learning after a near century of life, what goes through my head is both sobering and empowering.
I don’t think we ever outgrow growing up.