40

I remember slouching in the couch cushions in a therapist's office some years ago. She looked like an NPR hostess, and that's all I can remember about her except for the conversation we had near the end of this lone session. She had asked me to describe what I imagined my future to be. At 20? 30? 40? Later in life even?

I articulated to her a truth I'd never let slip, which was that I couldn't imagine such things. I couldn't see myself at 20, or 30, let alone, the impossible: 40. There was just no way I was going to become an older, comfortable Chris. This bothered her. She wanted to know if I had contemplated suicide. I said who hasn't?

"What you want to know is if I'm going to kill myself. I don't think so. I don't want to die, just sometimes I think I don't want to exist."

That was some 22 years ago, and since that conversation I have successfully reached 30 -- to my amazement at the time. And now here I am at 40 able to look back with clear optics.

As I matured in my 20s and came to grips with whom I was, I did begin to imagine life beyond the immediate. By 21 I wanted to go to college. By 23 I wanted to go to grad school, though for what I couldn't quite decide. And since I hadn't decided much in my life, it decided me. No wonder Hamlet was such an attractive character to me as a youth. And Holden Caulfield, too, of course.

These characters are mostly without agency. But that feature was rather more in my youth than of late. And I am okay with that imperfect past of mine. I am. It enabled me to understand what I couldn't while huddled in those couch cushions: Tough times breed appreciation.

I could reflect on the familial problems, mental health problems, physical health problems, break ups and divorces, losses and aches. Agony. I could reflect on that. In fact, that was the plan for this post.

But I don't want to anymore.

Those problems aren't gone. They're here, in me, as lessons and wisdom. I'd be a masochist to want to relive my teen years, what with all the angst and questions, doubt and heartache. Or my twenties, with more heartache and fear, divorce and its resulting painful self-examination. My thirties, punctuated by the declining of my parents' health and reincarnation of a form of depression, more insidious than before.

I'm not going to play the time machine game wherein I imagine what it would be like to do it all over again, this time properly. I won't play that game, because to play it means that I would rather have what could have been, than what I've got:

-A great wife
-A nice house
-Mental clarity
-Understanding in life
-The seeds of genuine comfort and acceptance

In other words, I've got what I had once hoped for, though mine came at a greater emotional cost.

Here's to the first forty years. May the second take me further.