“Serious change comes around about every thirty years,” he said, “And do you know why that is?” The whole room listened: “Because that’s how long it takes a generation to die.” The room broke with laughter and people turned to their neighbors and whispered things like, “that’s good!” or “so true!” or “really?” This man was speaking on a real estate panel addressing the question of culture change—how it happens, and how long it takes to happen.
Every thirty years. Starting when? Is it next year? In four years? Is it twenty-nine years from now?
For me, it’s now. It’s been thirty years since 1987, and change comes around about every thirty years, so this is change. I think of influential people who seemed to start life at thirty years old: Jesus, for one. And actually, he’s the only one I can think of without thinking too hard. Harrison Ford, too, I think.
I’m an adult. I’m not adulting. People use adulting to describe everyday activities that you need to perform as a human: “Just did my laundry and got car insurance, hashtag adulting!” Hashtag I am an adult. It sounds less interesting.
There are two ways to get older: the happy way and the sad way. There’s kicking and screaming and depression, or there’s acceptance and joy and peace and sometimes they all mix together at the same time.
I played in a flag football game the other day with my brother and some guys from his church. Stretching, as we all know, is for chumps, and so I started out by chasing a twenty-three year-old guy around the field. I had this kid, no problem, and on the second play of the game, when he burned me for a touchdown, I turned to try to catch him, and felt my hip pop.
Now hold on! I’m a thirty year-old man! My hips should be just fine! And I told that to my body and I walked around for about ten seconds and got back in the game and continued to destroy my body. I covered him and the players on three other teams for a total of two and half hours. I am sore.
My back is sore from falling in contorted positions. My legs are bruised and sore from the times that other receivers kneed me in the knees. My fingers are sore from ripping at flags that ripped all of my fingers off. My arm is sore from throwing touchdown after touchdown. Our team, Tinge of the Ginge, on account of the five members who had ginger-beards, ended the day with two wins and two losses and I now use a walker.
A lot of people talk about turning thirty like you’re turning dead. I was talking with my sister about this, and we agreed that we enjoyed turning thirty. I told her that it was nice to have a fully developed brain, and to know it. (Apparently this happens at twenty-five for males, but I keep hearing the number getting pushed back.) I told her that I felt like I had been waiting for this age in order to buckle down in life. There’s something about thirty that sounds more severe or more legitimate than twenty. I think people took me seriously at twenty, but I felt that I had to earn it. That someone would see me and think I wasn’t old enough to be in the room, or that I didn’t have the experience to contribute to the conversation. Eventually, it’ll be the other way around—I’ll be old and everyone else will be young. Sooner than I’d like, maybe.
My friend has a quote in her email signature from Max McKeown: “Change is inevitable; progress is not.” This is the challenge in life, I think. I know that I will change, that my family, friends, girlfriend, neighborhood, work, will all change. I wonder if change will reveal progress, or if it will just be different than it was before.
When I got back from my time in Australia doing Youth With a Mission, my friend Dave said, “I thought you’d be different.” And I said, “Am I?” and he said, “You’re the same old Bart!” I was happy and crushed at the same time, because the whole premise of this gap year was that I would be transformed into someone new, and people wouldn’t recognize me and I’d have a glowing orb over my head. But it was different. I was different than before, but it was deep change, submerged, and it took time to surface.
I’ve grown so much. I’m a changed man. You won’t recognize me. I’m going to end this post here because I need to buy beer for the party that I’m going to.