I’ve turned 30 years old recently, and as this occasion arrived, I wondered how different it would feel as I enter this particular stage of life.
Asking my veteran sports office co-worker didn’t elicit much of a response.
“Hey Jeff, what did you do to celebrate your 30th birthday?”
“Eh, I can’t remember.”
Oh dear. I’m feeling a little less enthusiastic about entering this decade of my life.
I never felt old until 27 hit. When that number came up three years ago, it hit my social conscience a bit hard. I’ve tried to maintain the perspective that age is nothing but a number, that you’re only as old as you make yourself to be, but 27 felt like I had officially left behind the “college” years, and had entered the “family man” years.
Most people my age have married and/or started families. Me, I’m still rocking the singles boat. I reckon that if I had a partner in life and had marriage and/or a family to settle down with, that big 3-0 number would pass by with no concern. Because who cares? Age is just a number, right?
But since I’m still filing tax returns with no dependents and no spouses, I’m beginning to feel like I’m running up against a deadline, and it has nothing to do with submitting sports content by 10 p.m. on a Saturday night.
Luckily, I live in Alaska, a state that provides plenty of lifestyle alternatives to make that domestic way of life an optional decision, something to relieve the societal pressure to find a mate and produce kids.
The state gives one so many excuses to hold off on that sort of thing. I work in the parks department and don’t have time. I work as a fisheries biologist and don’t have time. I’m training to climb the entire Chugach front range of mountains and don’t have time. I’m spending the next six months out in bush Alaska discovering myself and don’t have time.
My recent 30th birthday went by with no feelings of change. I still did the same things I would’ve planned to do on any other day of the year. Woke up. Fell out of bed. Dragged a comb across my head. Just like the Beatles verse.
After coffee, I eventually roused my spirit enough to go climb a mountain. I endured the usual construction delays and rough road that gets you out to the Skyline hiking trail and took off up the path. The day teased of summer’s upcoming warmth but I knew better than to climb above 2,000 feet elevation in springtime Alaska without tying a windbreaker around my waist for the upper slopes.
Sure enough, I needed that shell for the saddle on up. I cursed to myself as I punched through patches of icy and abrasive snow that still dot the high tundra above the saddle. Should’ve brought ski pants, but too late now.
Standing on top of the secondary peak that is shadowed by the main Skyline summit, I looked out on the Kenai flats and noticed to my amusement that it appeared the cities of Kenai and Soldotna were getting some precipitation. At least I wasn’t having to deal with that.
On that summit stood planted in a cairn of rocks a metal sculpture bearing the words “Fat Man Hiking Asso(ciation).”
As if calling me to join its ranks, the metal figurine seemingly taunted me to give up on my serious efforts spent training for such races as Mt. Marathon, and just accept that my glory years of being a natural stud (I can dream) are behind me.
It seemed to ask me, “What are you doing up here? Trying to lose 15 pounds before July 4? Why don’t you just head back home, throw yourself on the couch with a beer and enjoy the Cubs game?”
Since I’ve officially entered that decade of my life known for settling down and leaving the athletic years of one’s life behind, it was a serious proposition that the figurine was presenting me.
Maybe next time, Fat Man Hiking. Maybe next time.