Life events ruminations

Fractions of a Lifetime

Last week I turned 39 years old. A few people pointed out that next year will be the big four-oh, but I see more significance in this birthday as a milestone delineating the portions of my time on earth.

Halves: if I have a typical lifespan, this moment is just about the halfway point of my life! That striking observation has me taking stock of things.

I hesitated to write this as many of my friends reading this are older than me and it implies that their lives are mostly over. But me not writing it doesn’t change that. It feels right to me to acknowledge the finitude and preciousness of life, whatever age one is.

Thirds: this accounting neatly renders my life into three acts of twenty-six years each. Which works out perfectly in my case: I had my first child at 26 years old and my youngest child will become a legal adult when I’m 52.

That makes a third of my life without children; a third of my life as a parent of young, at-home children; and a third of my life with adult children. This midpoint of my life is also the halfway mark of me having children at home.

Quarters: a quarter of this life would be nineteen-and-a-half years. That interval coincides with the two biggest lifestyle changes I’ve made, both related to diet.

At nineteen-and-a-half, I stopped eating land animals. That was the pivotal moment of my vegetarianism, though I took a few years more to stop eating fish and marine invertebrates. Now, at thirty-nine, I’ve taken the plunge into veganism. I’d been eating mostly plant-based for a while but finally made it official and absolute. (Thanks, friends & family, for your support).

That makes for a quarter of my expected life as an omnivore and a quarter as a vegetarian. I wonder if I’ll stay vegan for the next nineteen years.

Here’s a photo (of a photo) from about that time, half of my life ago:

Nineteen years later: different haircut, same partner <3

I feel I ought to say something profound at my life’s halfway point. But I have only a smattering of observations and a few adjustments I might make in the second half. Looking back on life so far, I’m struck by how contingent it all was. More than things I did, I see things that occurred, and how one circumstance led to the next as I bounced around on the current of life. My interests, my family, my relationships: I marvel that they took the specific paths they did to manifest just as they are now, in this moment before they continue changing.

My life thus far likely would have seemed to me a marvel no matter how it had turned out. But this is the set of circumstances I find myself in. And I’m grateful for that. I’ll try to be mindful with my finite time as this second half begins.

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