Yesterday was my twentieth wedding anniversary. I tweeted about it. What? You missed my tweet? Shame on you! Anyway, the event got me to thinking about just how long twenty years is, and all that has happened and all the ways I've changed and haven't changed over the course of two decades. As I was contemplating this passage of time, I was also enjoying a new author (new to me, might not be new to you), John G. Hartness. His series is The Black Knight, and it's about vampires named Black and Knightwood who happen to be private investigators. Book one, A Hard Day's Knight, was fun. And while I could regale you with commentary on nerdy vampires and evil demons, both of which populate Mr. Hartness' book, what I want to discuss is the difference twenty years can make, or not.
In the book, our hero, James (call me Jimmy) Black and his trusty sidekick, Greg Knightwood, are two vampires who were turned two decades ago when they were in college. So they were about 20 when they became undead. Not a great age for boys, who tend not grow up at all until they are about 30. So, according to that logic, Jimmy and Greg should have grown up for about ten years before the events of the book occur. But not so much. In fact, they repeatedly refer to how much hasn't changed in the two decades since their first death, including, mostly, their luck with women, their tendency to make puerile jokes, and their love of all things video. My first thought at contemplating such stasis was, "How incredibly depressing."
It's not that I didn't like myself twenty years ago. Well, I didn't love myself, that's for sure. But I liked myself better than I had when I was 15, or 20 or 25. The trend was favorable. And it's also not that I didn't appreciate having a body that had 20 fewer years of wear and tear on it. I did. Although in many respects I'm healthier and more fit than I was back then. But, realistically, I looked better back in the day, according to our youth-obsessed culture. I didn't need the kind of skin care regimen I do now, and losing weight was a lot easier. Ah, well.
But while I didn't have as many wrinkles and my skin hadn't had as long to bow to the law of gravity, nor did I have the perspective that I do now. There's something about being able to look back such a long distance in the rearview mirror that allows me to relax into the present with much more serenity and grace than I was capable of twenty years ago.
So many of my life questions have been answered in a positive way. I now know how so much of the story ends--I know that I chose wisely and well in my husband--after all, we still like each other 20 years later, and we also still love each other. I look around and realize that is no small feat. I know that I finally did get pregnant--after four long and painful years filled with surgeries, injections and more time in stirrups than the U.S. equestrian team. I know that I'm not the best parent that ever lived, but also that I've avoided many of the mistakes that my parents made. I know that the friends I had had twenty years ago are still my friends today--as are the ones I met over 45 years ago. I know that I finally beat bulimia--although it took much, much longer than I would have thought or hoped.
The upshot here is that a lot has happened in 20 years that has affected me profoundly. And unlike Jimmy and Greg, I'm not immortal, so those 20 years count--and they count a lot. Many believe that the years between 30 and 50 represent our prime--the zenith of our mental and physical existence (my mother used to say that a woman didn't grow into her face until she was 30, and we've already discussed the male brain --such as it is).
I think I'd be pretty bummed if I traversed my 30s and 40s and had not much to show for it (for Jimmy and Greg it's their 20s and 30s, but still). God knows that I pray to make new mistakes, and to not repeat the past ad infinitum. That's just depressing--Groundhog Day again and again. So, for me, there was definitely a flash of sadness as I read about two perpetual boys, who happen to be dark creatures of the night (sort of), but prefer to play at being Peter Pan, living as Lost Boys in a basement apartment in a municipal cemetery (not that that is cliched or anything).
And as I contemplated the characters in my paranormal fantasy novel, I thought about all the people I've met and known who resemble our unaging and unchanging heroes more than is flattering. Unfortunately, I know a number of lost beings who refuse to learn the lessons of the Universe, and who get stuck in the past and in their limitations so that they never grow and evolve. These sad souls stay in bad marriages, show up for the same bad jobs day after day, and drink at the same bar stools night after night. They are vaguely--or not so vaguely--dissatisfied with their existence, filled with self loathing and disfiguring bitterness, yet unwilling to do anything to change their circumstances. These people break my heart.
Life is change. And in the world according to me, only fictional vampires should endure an unchanging existence. Certainly not people. We must all aspire to evolution in a positive the direction so that the problems we had 20 years ago differ in kind and not just degree from those that darken our doorsteps today. We have nothing to fear but stagnation--and that should scare the pants off us, no matter how old we are.
Reject equilibrium. Protest stasis. Eschew satisfaction with the status quo. Embrace growth. Pursue adaptation. Stretch. Reach.
Or not. Your call.