I’m not sure where middle age begins, but I’m pretty sure that even grading on the most generous curve, I’m in it.
In some ways, maybe we all are.
With Kim’s father in hospice the past week, and with his only brother in hospice for three weeks before that, I’ve naturally been thinking a lot about life and death.
And last times.
Gary and his wife Joyce are experiencing a lot of last times right now. And reflecting on the ones they didn’t realize were the last when they happened.
I wonder, is middle age the point of life when you start collecting more last times than first times?
Because the early chapters of our lives are bursting with firsts. First steps. First words. First day of school. First Communion. First date. First kiss. First beer. First job. First child. Of course, there are lasts sprinkled in as well, but they are not as many and not as melancholy.
Eventually, life shifts and the last times pick up steam: The last family vacation. The last child leaves the nest. Last day of work. Last anniversary celebration. Last Christmas. Last dance. Last kiss. One last goodbye.
While driving the other day, I was thinking about Gary and his last days while listening to a song by Ed Sheeran called “First Times.”
Ain’t it funny how the simplest things in life can make a man?
Little moments that pass us by
Oh, but I remember
The first kiss, the first night, the first song that made you cry
The first drink, red wine, on a step in Brooklyn
And I can’t wait to make a million more first times
I may or may not have been crying when I thought back on all the awesome first times in my life, and realized that many (most?) of my first times are behind me, while the last times are piling up like gremlins in a monsoon. (My jacked-up knee assures me that I’ve definitely ice skated for the last time.)
In the early part of our lives, the first times are so abundant we hardly have to make an effort. But as you age, they become less automatic. And when you’re on your deathbed, those last times suddenly explode in number.
The challenge is that the older we get, the less risk-averse we typically become. The more comfortable we are with the status quo. We settle down, sticking to the same foods, the same music, the same television shows, the same hairstyle, the same clothes, the same conversations, and the same routines that eventually devolve into ruts. At some point, the first times dry up and the last times begin to multiply.
It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. But it does require we be intentional about maintaining a spirit of curiosity and adventure.
I felt hopeful when I realized that the middle part – which takes up more space than we realize – is where the magic happens.
I can’t control how many days left I have on this spinning blue ball, but I don’t have to give up on collecting first times. There are new foods to try, new places to visit, new people to meet, new hobbies to begin, new art supplies to experiment with, and new adventures to be embarked upon.
My future – and yours – has no shortage of first times available, the only question is whether or not we will pursue them. The choice is ours.
The last times are coming for all of us. But as I wonder, How many first times do I have left?
The answer is, As many as I can make.