the long and short of it
“You know, some people say life is short and that you could get hit by a bus at any moment and that you have to live each day like it’s your last. Bullshit. Life is long. You’re probably not gonna get hit by a bus. And you’re gonna have to live with the choices you make for the next fifty years.”— Chris Rock
Last night I went to the birthday party of an old friend who just turned fifty. To my surprise, he now has a toddler and another baby on the way. When I last saw him six years ago, he was living with roommates and still struggling to finish his PhD. He’s not married to the mother though, and it seems like their relationship is a tenuous one. Like I’ve written before, if I had another decade I could probably pull off the baby thing too, although I don’t know if I’d want to at fifty.
I met another man at the party, single and around my age, who is suddenly itching to move to L.A. He’s become intrigued by the history of the place and feels, after a lifetime here, that he needs to experience the challenge of living in a major city.
I am glad I had that experience; I feel like I would have missed out on something if I hadn’t. The thing is, life may go by quickly, but it’s also very long. The human species seems to be transitioning from short lives involving multiple children to long lives and few or no children.
Yet the expectation remains, especially for women, that life changes will revolve around marriage and kids. What happens when, as increasingly seems to be the case, those don’t arrive? The grand majority of us have fairly humdrum careers, so four or five decades of slowly climbing the ladder at the same workplace is probably not enough to provide life with zest and variety and meaning. Society still seems to expect, however, that we will all play it “safe” and not make any big changes unless they involve pairing up.
Travel, career switches, sabbaticals, moves, and deep immersion in hobbies or alternative lifestyles are all things I see becoming the wave of the future. Unfortunately I’ve been a bit of a pioneer, which has been a lonely and misunderstood role to play, but I feel the ground shifting and see people making unusual choices all around me.
I only half agree with Chris Rock. Yes, life is long, but there can be a lot of change in fifty years.