Are we old yet?

February 9, 2013

Thirty-nine is just a number.

Being just a number, 39 is easily multiplied by 2, the product of which is 78.

According to arithmetic, as well as life expectancy data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I’m halfway dead.

I feel remarkably well for a half-dead man. One foot is in the grave, but the other is dancing a jig in the freshly dug soil, planning for its leggy future.

Birthdays are allegedly a time for celebrating making it through another trip around the sun. Existing in a universe where so much fails to exist is an accomplishment of sorts.

Over the course of the past year, I’ve not been eaten by a cheetah or angry bear, and I’ve avoided death by hammer, hanging and misadventure. I haven’t been worked or bored to death, nor have I been loved to pieces.

Discounting the possibility I’ve been administered a slow-acting poison via a secret agent’s lip gloss, I haven’t received the kiss of death either. Some things you have to take on faith.

In the year of my birth, 1974, Richard Nixon became the only U.S. president to resign from office. Duke Ellington died. Talking Heads formed. Patty Hearst joined the Symbionese Liberation Army, briefly.

Over the past 39 years, citizens became consumers, ideas became intellectual property and information went digital. The Internet turned into an inescapable thing. We are all now discrete data points whose desires, prejudices and motivations are tracked with alarming granularity.

The Cold War supposedly ended, though West and East still cultivate ill will like an old vine that bears a noxious, necessary fruit. The fight for mineral wealth is complicated by religious-tinged revolt in the old colonies. We fear we may be less relevant.

What lies ahead?

In 39 years, it will be 2052, by which time the United Nations projects the world’s population will have reached 9 billion. Perhaps we will have learned to live with less by then.

Perhaps by then we will have traveled to Mars and learned that Mars is a very lonely place.

Perhaps by then we will have stopped worrying about cyborgs, and stopped worrying about performance-enhancing drugs long before. Synthetic humans will be the ones to keep an eye on at the 2052 Olympics.

My own plan for the succeeding decades begins with making it to age 40. Thereafter, I shall strive to be 41, and then 42 and so on. Goal-oriented, you might call me.

Dave Penn is a copy editor for the Observer-Reporter. Contact him at



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