2015 is the year that all of the 1975 babies turn 40. And this is of importance to me because I am a 1975 baby.
Approaching a new decade is always a time for reflection. Whether that is a seed planted by the media and fertilised by popular culture is also something to reflect upon. I have no doubt that we are gently guided through the milestones of angst by television and movies, books and music. Given time, we would all probably reach the cross roads on our own, but our culture hands us the map so the forks are neatly laid out.
“I got a baby’s brain and an old man’s heart took eighteen years to get this far”Alice Cooper, Eighteen
A decade ago, when I was facing down 30, it was all about the “Saturn Return”.
“Western astrologers believe that, as Saturn “returns” to the degree in its orbit occupied at the time of birth, a person crosses over a major threshold and enters the next stage of life. With the first Saturn return, a person leaves youth behind and enters adulthood”The font of all knowledge (Wikipedia)
My first introduction to the concept of the Saturn Return was through the TV Series “The Secret Life Of Us”. After that, it was game on – Saturn Return references were everywhere. I bought into the concept completely, even though I didn’t quite fit into the story they were selling. Most Saturn Return story lines focussed on the “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life” crisis. At that stage I had two kids around 3 and 6 years old. I was doing whatever the hell they dictated, that’s what I was doing.
Now, I’m about to take the exit to Route 40 and it’s a completely new fork in the road. You can judge the stage in your life you’re at by the parties you go to. Once it was all Eighteenth birthdays, then it was 21st’s. Then there was a run of engagement parties and weddings. Then came the 30th’s and no one could quite believe how they got there. In the past few years, there’s a been a spate of 40th’s. The only real difference between a 30th and 40th party is that 40th’s are generally catered. Somewhere in that decade, most people decide that it might be a good idea to feed their drunk friends.
Paradoxically, although our society is completely and wholly youth obsessed, it is the middle-aged years that are given the most credence. Positions of real power and authority are almost always held by those in the 40-65 year old age bracket. We love our Doogie Howser’s, but we prefer our Surgeon General with grey hair. With age comes natural authority…but the window is narrow. Unlike other cultures that revere their elders with the utmost respect, we have a use-by date and one day we will all be discarded unceremoniously like off milk.
Childhood, adolescence and young adulthood are all celebrated in popular culture. Thematically they are very relevant, but they are not taken particularly seriously. The middle years are the “important” years. The years where Presidents are made.
Every generation in the past few decades has stretched the concept of youth further and further. Everyone is afraid of growing up. But as I approach my 40th birthday, I realise that society is expecting me and my cohorts to take the reigns. If we don’t start believing that we can do it, then before too long the window will close and our adolescent angst will soon become Alzheimer’s.