Monday, November 28, 2011

Lesson of the 36th Year

“The time is a critical one, for it marks the beginning of the second half of life, when a metanoia, a mental transformation, not infrequently occurs."

(on being 36 yrs old)
C.G. Jung, Symbols of Transformation

Thank you Carl Jung, for so many things, but above all, for helping me feel a little less crazy about the maelstrom that's engulfed my life. Or, at least, crazy in a good  way. 

People look at me sideways or brush off the sentiment altogether when I mention the 36 year mark as transformational. "Wait until you're 40," they say, missing the point altogether, as if I'm complaining about getting older. That's not it. What recently hit me like a bucket of water in the face is this: I am halfway through my life.

For so long, I've crawled, hopped, and sometimes skipped through this one, precious life of mine. Sure, I knew I was going to die, but that was a long way off. And then, suddenly, towards the end of my 36th year, I see death waving to me, like an old friend in an open doorway. Though still in the distance, he is near enough that his silhouette obscures the horizon.

“Firstly, there is no such person as Death. Second, Death's this tall guy with a bone face, 
like a skeletal monk, with a scythe and an hourglass and a big white horse 
and a penchant for playing chess with Scandinavians. 
Third, he doesn't exist either.”

Friends and family have argued the point, offering reassurances that I'll live past 72. Or they try to cheer me up, as if I'm somehow "sad" about the notion. Nope. Whether I live to 97 or am carried away by flying monkeys tomorrow, is irrelevant. The important thing is to allow the notion of death into my concept of "self" to a significant enough degree that it propels me forward for the remainder of my life.

How will I leave a mark and what will that mark be? What do I want to be known for? Who do I want to have been? They are not the kinds of questions most of us are comfortable asking ourselves. But the answer to those questions is the place where the truth lies, secreted away, waiting to show us our authentic selves, who we truly wish to be. We think we can wait for some "right" time in the future when we have more time to muddle through such things and ponder such questions.

I have news for you. There is no "right" time looming in the future. The time is Now. Do it Now. Begin it Now. Whatever it is, whatever you dream, bring it to life in this moment, the only one you can be sure of. What are you waiting for?


  1. That's EXACTLY how I felt at 35/36. I still like to say I had a mini-midlife crisis because I was definitely...all of the sudden...acutely aware. I'm not sorry about it though. I needed a huge shove forward and into the present. And that is where you will find me on a good day!

  2. I think your comments are spot on. I didn't have the experience but that might be because my Dad passed away when I was 35 so I was dealing with death from a different angle. But you're right, you need to recognize that you don't have unlimited time on earth to do and be who you want to be.