On the Quarter Century

Sixteen. Eighteen. Twenty-one. The ages for which we wait expectantly. To drive. To smoke. To purchase and consume alcohol. Every one of us has known someone who, upon reaching that aged threshold, promptly began to abuse the new found privilege; maybe that someone was us.

The counsel of those who have passed those benchmarks is lost on those approaching – that the time will pass in the blink of an eye and the dissipation of a breath.

After passing twenty-one, a great many minds falter, having spent their entire lives, or all that they can remember, yearning for this day. Now that the great expectant event has come and passed, sometimes with a longer honeymoon period, what is the next benchmark to live for? I haven’t researched it much, but don’t AARP cards start arriving around age fifty-five? Is that when senior citizen discounts at the local diner begin to kick in? Does one really need to wait thirty-four years for their next goal? What heinous guardian sets such goals in our hearts?

Well, perhaps our hopeless indignation is a bit premature. There is still the righteous age of twenty-five – that age at which rental car companies oblige us by rescinding their demands for the very arms and legs we’d use to drive their vehicles.

I recently turned twenty-five. I don’t think I had any epiphanies directly associated with my aging another year. I did shatter an urban myth, though. According to my Progressive customer service representative, maybe named Matt, insurance rates do not automatically decrease when one turns twenty-five. Rates do decrease as a result of being another year past the legal drinking age without any accidents, but nothing significant.

A quarter of a century. That is how long I have been alive. That sounds much more impressive than saying I am twenty-five years old. The former sounds as though my life has consumed a significant chunk of history; the latter sounds as if I drink Keystone Light while trying to catch one night stands with freshman girls – an attempt to maintain the carefree (or careless) nature of a dependent.

My parents were twenty-four when I was born. I’ve idolized my father, and the relationship I have with him, forever. When I realized I had the unspoken goal of having my first son by the age of twenty-four, I was terrified. A year ago I certainly wasn’t ready to be a father; I’m still not ready. I’m not even dating anyone, much less married or seriously considering that state. I’m struggling to attain cleanliness in a house of adults; having seen parents honestly operate, I know that my ideal is not possible with a child. One day I’m sure I will be able to accept that. That day is not today.

It is terrifying to look back and realize the chasm that can open in a matter of weeks or months, more so years. I’ve had friends I’d have sworn my life to, with whom I haven’t spoken to in years – years, even, since the last time I saw them. Places from which I never saw or desired an exit strategy are now populated by people who don’t know my name, much less my face. That is not to diminish what our relationship was; it is just to say that it is ended or it has changed. Even with the qualifier, that is still hard to accept. It is contrary to what we imagine as loyalty.

Imagination can be a terrible thing. Romanticism can be crippling, especially when it prowls unrecognized.

In contrast, there are people with whom I speak a couple times a year, max. But when we are together, we pick up where we left off. Some of these are people upon whom I gave up after years of silence; some contact was never lost. These are lucky relationships, and there are some that are luckier. Are these the ones to which we are loyal? What will another twenty-five years add to these?

The show How I Met Your Mother is one of my favorites. One episode features one main character measuring people against the “Front Porch” test: will she want to sit with these people on the front porch of the retirement beach house? I’d like to think that my front porch will always be open to those who, at one time or another, I’ve called my closest friends. But in twenty-five or fifty years, I may only want them there for an afternoon, not day after day – even the ones with whom today I wouldn’t mind sharing the porch with every day.

One day I’d like a very large porch, so that I can host my friends: past, present, and future. I guess, when I think about it as I am now, that is where my expectations lie.

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