When you hit your 30’s, you enter a decade-long safe haven.. According to data, life’s third decade, along with child rearing and balding, includes a dip in mortality rates. In this 10 year bubble, you can enjoy statistical safety. Shy of 30 or just over the edge of 40, life reverts back to a high risk investment. Whatever childhood illness, polio maybe, didn’t kill you, and your high blood pressure is just brewing. Making it to 30 is its own achievement, and the vestiges of life’s prime are keeping you just within its warm membrane, outside of the cold.
I am 29, so I still have a few months before I can enjoy my statistic insurance. When I was 25, I thought I’d probably die by 26 with the way things were going, which is to say, they were going fine and I wasn’t ill with anything beyond a pervasive sense of doom. Unfortunately, “pervasive sense of doom” wasn’t good enough to earn one of those treasured diagnoses. Sure, I have anxiety, stress, and heat exhaustion on my records now, but they haven’t gotten me much medical credit.
Four years ago, age 26, I practically drove my Prius through walls of the life extension office and filed for a life extension to age 27. Then, at 27, I filed to make it to 28, then 28 to 29. Each time, the loamy life extension agent asked me, “How old are you?” When I answered, the agent paused, looked me over, shrugged, and fast tracked my request. I didn’t even need paperwork. On my most recent visit, the agent slobbered to me, “You know, you really don’t have to get these things at your age.”
Each year, as I walk back through the waiting room, I pass people swollen with diabetes, huffing oxygen tanks, chemo bald, begging the calcifying agents at their cardboard desks for just one more month. Each hopeful has an encyclopedia of paperwork, letters from distant relatives, 20 proofs of identity. Now, I only have to make it to 30, at which point they’ll grant me a 10 year extension, a care-free time of no-heart-attacks or collapsed lungs. “But at 40,” the agent will say, “you really should start coming back in. Most people don’t, but it’s advisable.”
Another statistic: you are at a pretty low risk for heart failure before 40. When I went in at 26 with complaints of chest pain, the doctors gave me their bemused attention. They listened to my pounding heart, ran an EKG, a chest x-ray. Even if you really want to have a heart attack and die in your 20’s, they won’t humor you that much. Time’s just not on your side, and doctors are not there to indulge you.
“It’s very unlikely you’re suffering from heart trouble at your age.” It’s also very unlikely you’re going to die from a stray arrow. Tell that to the neighbor of an amateur bow hunter.
But still, the cold realities of mathematical probability make for weak comfort. It’s not dissimilar to explaining to a day-old skin cell, “Well, most of your trillion brethren don’t die at such a young age,” and the cell can take that math to the grave as a pumice stone scrapes it off and down the shower drain.
My co-worker Mary told me once of an ex-boyfriend who had, by his young twenties, already suffered a few heart attacks. Something about a viral infection taking residence in his heart. So there’s 1 example. He hasn’t actually died, but I routinely make the case to myself that continuous heart attacks from viral infections aren’t the best thing to survive. I get the same feeling when I talk to my partner, Lizzie the clinical psychologist, who works in a cardiac rehab center. Surviving cardiac failure is not as fun as surviving a childhood kidnapping.
I’m looking forward to my 30th birthday. It’s classically an opportunity to stop and blanch at your growing age, to dip your paddle into the river and realize how shallow the water is becoming, but I have statistics on my side. On the eve of my 30th birthday, I’ll make a resolution to myself, all that heart and lung stuff, that paralyzing terror of pain and failure, that crap was for my 20’s. For this decade, I will rest at ease in the cold embrace of math and probability, knowing that the days of paperwork and begging is yet a few years off.