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"I expect to continue ComingOfAge until my accumulated age catches up to me,
not until I finally catch up with my age. "

I'm supposed to attend my fiftieth high school reunion in a few weeks, and this event has me ruminating. I was ComingOfAge when I graduated, not yet eighteen and emotionally unprepared to accept that I'd grown up. In fact I had not then completed growing up and cannot yet admit to having finished that labor, for ComingOfAge seems an asymptotic activity, one which never fully completes its mission. I seem to have been chasing the chimera of maturity for as long as I can remember, always pursuing a mythical stable next state which seems to have always been replaced with yet another looming ascension as I grew nearer to it. I remember never having quite grown up into feeling like a fully-qualified high school student when graduation came along, just like I never quite satisfied my aspiration to feel as though I fit into my Junior High School class before graduating from there. Ditto with my grade school and preschool experiences, and ditto to every role I've attempted to assume so far.

I've grown to question whether anyone ever comes of age.
I certainly have come to accept impending ages, as I grew to accept each looming maturity as inevitable. Marriage matured like this, and fatherhood, divorce, remarriage, divorce and remarriage again. I took my first job out of university with the understanding that I did not bring a professional designation with me, and I jealously watched the attorneys and accountants fill prescribed roles while I rather frantically constructed my own, always and I suppose inevitably, a couple of steps behind. I left that company before I'd finished constructing my professional identity, moving to a boutique consulting firm which seemed specifically designed to tolerate my endless becoming. That firm blew up before I'd finished my growth. My own firm provided even more latitude for me to labor to finish what I now recognize as the fundamentally unfinishable symphony which has always been my life.

Of course I fret over how I'll introduce myself to my former classmates at the reunion, for even now, I hold no title to any elevated heights. I've lived my life a few steps behind the times, disoriented by the volume of my own unfinished business and continually wary of what I see challenging me just over the next horizon. I can rather proudly proclaim that I'm still learning, that I never quite settled for what I'd achieved, it always seeming to fall so short of what I'd imagined as necessary for survival. Yet I've somehow survived, so far, still ComingOfAge and most glaringly not OfAge yet, and most probably never will be any age but becoming.

People my age have already retired, a milestone I can't imagine earning. I pre-tired a couple of decades ago at a point when I decided to stop trying to become someone I most clearly would never be. It was a risky choice, since it would mean divorcing myself from many of the usual success metrics. Endless becoming offers no retirement plan and little respite along the way, its chief perk being that it provides the opportunity to acknowledge that becoming state without the necessity of successfully passing any certification exam to confirm accumulated qualifications.

Now, old age looms ahead, an age I have little clue about how to properly prepare for and even less idea how to competently inhabit. I still strongly relate to the me I knew myself to be in the months leading up to my high school graduation, more so now than then. I've changed a lot since then except on the inside, where I've changed not so much that anyone would notice if they could get inside of me. My pursuit continues, tempered now with the growing acceptance that no finish line exists. I expect to continue ComingOfAge until my accumulated age catches up to me, not until I finally catch up with my age.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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