Unemployed, Take 2: This is Forty

27 Apr 2024

Today, I turned forty.

I remember when my father turned forty and we jokingly remarked that he was now “over the hill.” At that time, he had fathered three four children and owned a house in Kansas City. He had been married to my mother for over a decade. (They would divorce a couple of years later.) While we moved around a lot as a kid as my dad got different jobs, I can’t remember a period when my father was unemployed for any significant length of time. I don’t know what my dad’s dreams in life actually were at that point, but by most definitions, he had achieved “the American dream.”

Today, I turned forty. I am not yet a father. I have rented every place I have ever lived. I do not currently have a job. I only got married last year. I don’t feel like I’ve climbed over a hill. It feels more like I’ve spent forty years trying unsuccessfully to summit an insurmountable mountain.

I know it is a fool’s errand to compare my life at forty with that of my father. We lived in very different eras. We pursued very different lives. I do not want my father’s life. But it is near impossible not to think about what my father had achieved at this point and feel like I have come up wanting.

I can only hope that I’ve misinterpreted the idiom. Maybe the summit isn’t the goal. Maybe life is more like a roller coaster: You have to slowly climb that first hill before gravity can take over and send you on your way.

If that’s the case, then all I need is a few more tugs from the chain. A new job. A surrogate. A home of my own. If I can extend that hill just a littler higher, then I know I have the ride of my life on the other side.

Today, I turned forty. I’m over the hill. I’m ready for the ride to begin.