Tuesday, December 30th, 2014


This year I’m starting to understand what it is to be middle aged. I think I became middle aged in 2011, but this year maybe I know what that is.

When I was young I viewed middle age through the lens of a young person. I would think: to be middle aged is all the things I’m not right now. To never be young again. To have many fewer Firsts ahead of me. And yes, I envy the idle freedom of my youth. To wander aimlessly.

But now, here, I am learning what middle age is, not just what it is not.

Death. I am losing friends, family. I am losing people who to me were permanent. Not rationally permanent, but still permanent. But this death is only the tip of the iceberg. To grow old… here, I can now catch glimpses of what it means. Either this death is just the tip of the iceberg, or I will be the tip of someone else’s iceberg. Both are possible.

Death and responsibility. I’m now the father of two. Many young people are the father of as many or more children than I. They are all middle aged, but many are too young to know it. I’m am more than old enough to know it, these are responsibilities that can never be shed. Having children has only revealed to me my real responsibilities… to family, to friends, to my community, even my responsibility to the missing communities, the missing friendships, the missed relations.

Death and responsibility and humility. I will never meet my responsibilities; I and everyone I know will die; after that nothing can be fixed. This is the foundation of my humility. It’s not my fault. To be humble is not to be ashamed or guilty. It’s to know I am only so tall, so strong, so brave: no matter how much I may accomplish all I do is finite and any quality I have is so much smaller than the world.

But I’m alive. If I’m halfway through, I’m still but half of what I’ll be. I am all of what I know. There is still a great mystery waiting me.

And children… the responsibility is only as heavy as their import. In them I am part of a legacy that goes back before humanity, a legacy that defines meaning itself. Of course it is heavy. It isn’t easy, this responsibility is not intended to make me happy, in it I learn that happiness is itself small.

And so I am humble. I bow before a world that owes me nothing. And of all that I ask of the world, little will be delivered. That little will be my everything. Here I stand before half of my everything and it is more than I’ll ever know and ever could know. I was never so young that I could know it, even my ignorance is too vast for me to know. I don’t even know where I stand, but maybe I know I am standing. This is my middle age.

In loving memory of my grandmother, Jeanetta Bicking, 1925-2014


Jessamin HeinrichsFri, 02 Jan 2015

I had this exact same feeling/ thing descend on me this year. Not like I was in denial before- just a innate feeling of seriousness just popped up in me and it's slightly new-- but very solid, Still pleasurable-- but a feeling of my age and just a heavier feeling. BUt.. perhaps more full of love. I also think it was caused by my mom dying and the immense ness of that __Even though we all know that's what happens.

Gaylyn BickingWed, 07 Jan 2015

I swear I commented before, but somehow it was lost. I was just talking to a friend (Margaret) about what you wrote. I feel that each paragraph is worthy of an hour discussion. I, too, felt that I was middle-aged when I was young in my thirties. Whenever I shared that thought, my peers scoffed me. You have defined middle aged in such a thoughtful way. Thanks for sharing and maybe you and I should get together and philosophize about age sometime soon.

Gaylyn BickingWed, 07 Jan 2015

Just this evening I realized that in many ways my life is insignificant. That is not particularly depressing but is true. My life is small to the world at large. It is even small to some of those who have known me for a long time. During a discussion with a friend, I have known for many, many years, it was obvious that she had forgotten that I had cancer a few years ago. For her my cancer was insignificant. Of course, it was very significant to me. And maybe to my family also. That importance means little to the community at large. Still I live my life as we all do.

This is the personal site of Ian Bicking. The opinions expressed here are my own.