Before I wrote for Modern Machine Shop, I was one of its readers. I can remember a column that Mark Albert wrote during that time, on the subject of his turning 40. This personal reflection of his is probably the piece of writing from MMS that has stuck with me the longest.
To be fair to Mark, though, it wasn’t all that long ago. This month, I reach a minor milestone—10 years working for the magazine. As if to punctuate the point, this month also introduces these new photos for the editors’ columns. Yes, I am aging, too—a point I feel compelled to admit almost regretfully. Why is that?
The notion that aging is to be dreaded runs contrary to my experience. If I shut out everything I am supposed to think about aging, I realize I’m looking forward to turning 40 myself in a few years. I’m looking forward to 50 after that. Age has brought me greater ease and greater possibility, and I’m looking for the trends to continue.
That we idealize youth is easy to explain. The messages of our mass media are paid for by advertising, and people who are still impressionable but have disposable income represent a fantastic target for that advertising. Thus, our culture leaves us with the sense of a spotlight eternally shining on the youngest adults.
Let it shine. I can tell you this about aging: You get to stop making quite so many mistakes. Some errors of haste, pride, fear and small-mindedness finally occur enough times that you can fully learn their lessons. In the future, I look forward to illuminating even more of my blind spots in this way.
Another advantage: I know myself better. I know what great things I can pull off, and I also know what things others can do well that I shouldn’t even try, because they will simply befuddle me. Success comes a little more smoothly, and failure becomes easier to avoid.
A bigger milestone came just a couple of months ago. My second child was born. Having just one child can still seem like an accessory of youth, but having multiple children leaves one feeling suddenly like a parent. Processing this brought me to another, similarly welcome realization. Namely: What kind of young man I will be is no longer in question. Ambitious, naïve, promising, reserved, responsible or whatever—the matter is settled. The question now is what kind of man I will be. It is a larger question with fuller implications, and setting out to find the answer strikes me as a privilege.