“I think you might be having a quarter-life crisis,” my mom said recently.
I’ve been letting my hair grow out and changing up my style a bit, just because I can. My dad isn’t too fond of the long, shaggy hair, either.
“Can I pay for a haircut?” he asked more than once when I was staying with him before my stepsister’s wedding in May.
I don’t think I’m having a “crisis.” That’s a term people use to refer to someone (especially a man) who starts questioning his life while earnestly trying to recapture his youth. Sure, last week I impulsively bought a chopper bicycle that looks like a motorcycle from “Easy Rider” and I work with a bunch of 20-somethings at a gear store, but I wouldn’t say it’s indicative of a crisis.
I am in a transformative time, however. How I’m transforming, I’m not sure. I’ve just gone through this kind of growth enough that I’m better able to recognize it. It’s always scary, because uncertainty has to come into play. All I can do is embrace the fact that life is growth, and therefore, if I’m living, I’m growing. Change is necessary.
That said, I’ll admit the chopper bike purchase surprised even me. I had to have it as soon as I sat in the saddle. I definitely felt like a slightly different kind of guy when I rode it over to the pub on the Fourth of July. My long hair streamed behind me in the wind, tucked under a red bandanna, and my mirrored sunglasses reflected the amber horizon as I followed my nose toward the grilling hamburgers and beer to meet some friends. The bike felt like the missing piece of my new outfit. Did I gravitate to the bike or was it the other way to me? I suspect it is the latter.
Either way, the silly, heavy thing has added a touch of fun in my transportation where there wasn’t much before. Even as Lycra-clad road bikers zip by me, their legs hardly moving while I labor to get my hulk of rolling steel up the slightest hill I wasn’t aware of before because it looked so flat. The fun is worth it. What’s wrong with a 31-year-old buying a toy here and there to add fun to his life?
At the pub last Friday, I caught up with several friends I haven’t seen in a while. Their ages ranged from about 30 to 45. For most of them, their evening celebrations were winding down. I was somewhere in the middle.
After the pub closed down at 8 p.m., some of us went to another bar, where I saw more of my friends, except now I was distinctly one of the older people on the scene, for my 30-something-year-old friends had left around 10 p.m.
“Derek’s actually staying out?” my friend asked my fiancée in disbelief.
“Yup,” was the reply (she told me this later).
I thought it was interesting to see the changing of the guard take place right before my eyes. I remembered when I was about 25, how I wouldn’t even think about going out on the town until 9:30 at the earliest. And here I was at 10 o’clock, seeing the crowd morph from older to younger. It was amusing to consider how we box ourselves into our age groups just by the schedules we prefer. I recommend blurring the lines a little on either side of your comfort zone from time to time.
It’s not that I’m trying to chase lost youth. I don’t have to. I simply have friends of all ages. That keeps me young, and — since I have much older friends as well, with one pushing 80 — it keeps me centered.
I may not be sure exactly where I’m going in life, but I have a pretty good idea where I am, and that’s a comforting thing to know. Like that old Tolkien quote says, “Not all who wander are lost.”
Even if it’s on a chopper bike.
I’ll see ya’ll around as you zip by me on the bike path. You’ll get to your destination faster, but I’ll be enjoying the ride.
— “Open Space” appears on the second and fourth Friday of every month. Derek Franz lives in Carbondale and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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