I remember when I was a kid, closing my eyes and wishing that when I opened them again that I would be 18. My 8-year-old brain assumed that life was pretty good at 18. What I didn’t realize is that at 18, the average man has so much testosterone in his body that he still has the brain of an 8-year-old. Life wasn’t easier then and it’s not easier now.
Today I turn 39. While there is no way I would go back to being 8 or 18, 39 is one of the first numbers where I have thought, “I wouldn’t mind going back a year or two.”
It’s the birthday before the birthday. While I’m not a fan of Sunday birthdays (too many distractions from the main task of the day), I’m grateful my Sunday birthday falls on number 39 and not 40. Next year, I will make the big transition on a quiet Monday–hopefully on some beach somewhere. (See: 10 Reasons Life is Better in Your Late 30s)
But today I’m 39 and life is different at 39. It’s not bad, just different.
Five ways life is different at 39:
1. You get “sir’d” by the new kindergarten parents. Yep, as I walked my kids into school on the first day, the parent of a new kindergarten student was walking out. I said, “Thank you,” as he held the door for me and he nodded and said, “Yes, sir.” I was stunned. “Did he just sir me?” I thought. But there was no doubt.
I wanted to tell him, “Look deep into my wrinkled eyes, I am you. I know you don’t believe it. As you get into your Jeep and turn on the Katy Perry channel on Spotify, you look at me in my cross-over SUV (a modern day minivan) as I listen to the Backstreet Boys on Pandora and you think we are worlds apart. We aren’t. This is you now. Get used to it.”
2. You get hurt during your first night of a men’s tennis league. Jenny and I have played doubles tennis for a few years. We aren’t very good, but we have a good time. Wanting to try to hit the ball hard for more than just 50% of the time, I decided to join a men’s league. On the first night as I played with guys who were mostly a few decades older than me, I twisted my ankle. I tried not to show the pain, but the next morning I could barely walk. Thankfully the X-rays were negative and no one really knew I was hurt because we were all afraid my accountant on the next court was having a heart attack. Maybe when I turn 40, I’ll have to just stick with mixed doubles.
3. You no longer get asked if you’re the student pastor. For the first decade of the pastorate, I would tell people what I did and they would always assume I was the student pastor. I would correct them and you could see the confusion in their eyes–how could a pastor be so young. Now I tell them what I do and people look at me as though to say, “That’s about right.” I no longer “have potential” or am “going to be great one day.”
4. You embarrass your kids and you like it. I’m the dad who walks my kids to school and then all the way into their classroom. Ella loves it; Silas, not so much. A few weeks ago we were walking to school. We held hands the whole way until we got just outside of school. Silas let go of my hand, said goodbye, and took off running. Watching him go, Ella squeezed my hand and said, “It’s okay dad, he’s just trying to be somebody.” I smiled and said, “Aren’t we all, Ella.”
Silas’ classroom is right next to Ella’s. As I dropped her off, he was standing in line waiting to go into his class. Knowing he was wanting to be somebody I walked by, blew him a kiss, and said in a loud voice, “I love you Silas Thompson.” (See: On George Strait, a First Kiss, and Seminary Women)
5. You don’t mind others calling you old. On most warm Fridays, I play golf with college students then have lunch with two men in their 80s. I love it. Of course, the college students love to make fun of me, especially for my age. One late Friday after a particularly bad round in which they had beaten me handily, they were razzing me as I headed to my car. “Have a good night, old man,” one of them said. I replied, “I will. While you guys spend Friday night in your dorm racking up debt, I’m going to go to my house, count my money, and have sex with my wife.” I might lack a lot of things at my age, but a strong retort is rarely one.
My 30s have been my favorite decade so far. There have been some difficult times, but by and large it’s been a fun time. Hopefully year 39 is memorable in a good way.