Life’s Milestones

There are milestones in life that show how old you are.

From Esquire‘s “What I’ve learned” series, Aaron Sorkin reflects on getting older:

I keep thinking that I graduated from college a couple of years ago when it was actually 1983.


There are these signposts along the way of getting older. The first is when the Playmate of the Month is younger than you are. Suddenly you’re starting to feel dirty because you’re twenty-three and she’s nineteen and you really shouldn’t be looking at that picture.

The next thing that happens is professional athletes are younger than you are.

Then coaches and managers are younger than you are.

And finally, the last one that happens: I’m the same age as the president of the United States.

Having recently turned 45, I haven’t quite experienced the last of these.  John Kennedy and Teddy Roosevelt were both younger when they took office.  Bill Clinton was 46 and Barack Obama was 47.

But, otherwise, I’ve had the same thoughts.   Other signposts that come readily to mind:

  • You’re older than your dad was at key life moments. For example, I’m older now than my dad was when I graduated college.
  • The people graduating high school weren’t born when you graduated high school.  Ditto college.  The last has just happened for me.

What are yours?

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. john personna says:

    I stopped worrying when my doctors started looking like kids.

    BTW, I didn’t think I’d drop this link here today, but I’d call it related.

    a 20-year-old today can expect to live one less healthy year over his or her lifespan than a 20-year-old a decade ago

    So, I’m afraid it is worse than all that. Not only are we getting older, it sucks more.

  2. Gustopher says:

    These two moment leapt out at me to make me feel old:

    When you can legally date someone half your age. (With perhaps another cringeworthy moment when you actually do).

    When you need reading glasses.

  3. DC Loser says:

    Think how I feel knowing that I’m OLDER than the President of the United States, and recently qualified for AARP membership.

  4. john personna says:

    Oh yeah ;-), when those AARP membership requests start coming in the mail. That’s a good one.

  5. floyd says:

    Step…. you pluck your first gray hair… next step…. wishing you had it back , in any color!

    Step…. you are the master of all technology…next step… you feel like a caveman on a starship!

  6. john personna says:

    (First AARP mailer showed up and I’m like “noooo, too soon!”)

  7. DC Loser says:

    and I’m feeling guilty about looking at those hot 20 or even 30 something women. Sheesh, I should be acting my age 🙂

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    First you and your friends are talking about school. A few years later you’re talking about work. Or kids. The next milestone is when you’re talking about diseases.

  9. JKB says:

    When your learn your doctor is younger than you. My first younger doctor was also the one who told me I needed reading glasses. Double whammy.

    When the oldest person whose birth you remember reaches 18 or 30.

    The first time your birth year is included in the Colonial-Penn Guaranteed Acceptance Life insurance commercial.

    When you meet the adult children of your high school friends who got pregnant senior year.

  10. rodney dill says:

    The first time my oldest daughter told me an off-color joke.

    When one of my daughters complained about my grandson for stuff he was doing, that she used to do.

  11. rodney dill says:

    Teaching my daughters to drive.

  12. tom p says:

    becoming a grandparent…

  13. You’re missing some because your children are still very young.

    When you first child graduates high school or college, or when they get married.

    When your last child finishes each stage of school, you realize that an end has been reached or another corner has been turned.

    When there are no longer any professional athletes still playing that were in college when you were in college.

    When your first notice your doctor is noticeably younger than you.

    When you can count the number of years before you can start drawing on your 401(k) on one hand.

    When you first think that your parents are really old.

    When you realize you cannot fully provide the care your parents need any longer.

    When you hear about potential changes to Social Security and start taking them very seriously.

  14. tom p says:

    burying your parents…

  15. This Guy says:

    Thanks Tom P, way to lighten the moment…sheesh.

    How about the early onset stuff, like

    When you would RATHER watch the game at home than go to the stadium cause of all the traffic and noise.

    When 3 beers in one night is a BIG deal and results in a HUGE headache and not what you drink as you get dressed to go out for the night. (Is that just me?)

    The moment you notice that you loathe teenagers.

    Getting excited about a visit to the bathroom.

    When poop becomes the most common topic in your household (but you get the evil eye for saying shit).

    When going to the movies at nighttime is no longer considered a good time, the matinee is so much nicer with fewer people.

  16. sam says:

    You know you’re old when, just two months shy of your 70th birthday, you find yourself reading 45 and 50-year-olds explaining how it is they discovered they are old — and you think, they have no idea….

  17. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***You know you’re old when, just two months shy of your 70th birthday, you find yourself reading 45 and 50-year-olds explaining how it is they discovered they are old — and you think, they have no idea….***


  18. When you realize that people actually take antacids, because you need one.

  19. just me says:

    the first big one was when kids I used to baby sit started driving. Now they have kids of their own.

    I think the other one is realizing that things like the Challenger explosion and Ronald Reagan are similar for my kids as the Cuban missile crisis and Vietnam were for me.

    I had my kids younger than my parents had me (my parents were much older than most of my peers) so most of the milestones I see happen with my kids will be at younger ages than they were for my parents.

  20. michael reynolds says:

    When you realize that not a single woman alive is checking you out because you’re hot.

    Compensation: they’re checking you out because you have money.

  21. Boyd says:

    When the Playboy Centerfold is younger than your daughter.

    Or so I’m told. I wouldn’t know, personally, because I’m neither old nor read Playboy. Ahem.

  22. Joe says:

    I was sitting in church on Sunday next to a grade school classmate who was surrounded by several of her grandchildren.

  23. tom p says:

    this guy:

    did not know I was supposed to “lighten the moment”

    sorry, welcome to my world, at6 least I did not say “and realize that from now on, you really are on your own.”

    ooooopppppssss, did I just say that?

  24. tom p says:

    “When the Playboy Centerfold is younger than your daughter.”

    Boyd, not having daughters, I was spared all that…(thank god)

  25. tom p says:

    “When you realize that not a single woman alive is checking you out because you’re hot.”

    Funny moment…. I was once able to brag to a buddy of mine that a 14 yr old girl had a crush on me…

    And it was only a moment, it made me EXTREMELEY uncomfortable…. and him even more so.

  26. wr says:

    Not to get all gloomy like that downer Tom P, but there is a period in your 30s when you seem to be going to weddings all the time… and then just a few years later the weddings have run out and you keep getting invited to funerals…

  27. Peter says:

    When you decide it’s unwise to buy green bananas ….

  28. Drew says:

    Does this mean I can’t continue to form this rock band I’m putting together?

    You fossils.

  29. Peter says:

    A six-degrees-of-separation connection with the distant past can make one feel old. When I was in elementary school, around 1970 or 1971, one of the regular substitute teachers was a retired teacher who was, believe it or not, 94 years old (she had retired when pensions were nearly nonexistent and needed the substitutes’ pay). She had started as a teacher at the age of 19 or 20. What this means is that I sat in a classroom with a person who had begun a teaching career about the time when Grover Cleveland relinquished the Presidency to William McKinley. Now that makes me feel ancient!

  30. michael reynolds says:

    Tom P:

    Because of my line of work I have plenty of 14 year olds with crushes. If by “crush” you mean they wish I could be their cool grandfather.

  31. Maggie Mama says:

    When you’re pulled over for speeding — by a cop who doesn’t look old enough to drive!

  32. John425 says:

    When teenagers call you, “Sir”.

  33. John425 says:

    The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2013

    Most students entering college for the first time this fall were born in 1991.

    1.For these students, Martha Graham, Pan American Airways, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, The Dallas Times Herald, Gene Roddenberry, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead.
    2.Dan Rostenkowski, Jack Kevorkian, and Mike Tyson have always been felons.
    3.The Green Giant has always been Shrek, not the big guy picking vegetables.
    4.They have never used a card catalog to find a book.
    5.Margaret Thatcher has always been a former prime minister.
    6.Salsa has always outsold ketchup.
    7.Earvin “Magic” Johnson has always been HIV-positive.
    8.Tattoos have always been very chic and highly visible.
    9.They have been preparing for the arrival of HDTV all their lives.
    10.Rap music has always been main stream.
    11.Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream has always been a flavor choice.
    12.Someone has always been building something taller than the Willis (née Sears) Tower in Chicago.
    13.The KGB has never officially existed.
    14.Text has always been hyper.
    15.They never saw the “Scud Stud” (but there have always been electromagnetic stud finders.)
    16.Babies have always had a Social Security Number.
    17.They have never had to “shake down” an oral thermometer.
    18.Bungee jumping has always been socially acceptable.
    19.They have never understood the meaning of R.S.V.P.
    20.American students have always lived anxiously with high-stakes educational testing.
    21.Except for the present incumbent, the President has never inhaled.
    22.State abbreviations in addresses have never had periods.
    23.The European Union has always existed.
    24.McDonald’s has always been serving Happy Meals in China.
    25.Condoms have always been advertised on television.
    26.Cable television systems have always offered telephone service and vice versa.
    27.Christopher Columbus has always been getting a bad rap.
    28.The American health care system has always been in critical condition.
    29.Bobby Cox has always managed the Atlanta Braves.
    30.Desperate smokers have always been able to turn to Nicoderm skin patches.
    31.There has always been a Cartoon Network.
    32.The nation’s key economic indicator has always been the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
    33.Their folks could always reach for a Zoloft.
    34.They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.
    35.Women have always outnumbered men in college.
    36.We have always watched wars, coups, and police arrests unfold on television in real time.
    37.Amateur radio operators have never needed to know Morse code.
    38.Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Latvia, Georgia, Lithuania, and Estonia have always been independent nations.
    39.It’s always been official: President Zachary Taylor did not die of arsenic poisoning.
    40.Madonna’s perspective on Sex has always been well documented.
    41.Phil Jackson has always been coaching championship basketball.
    42.Ozzy Osbourne has always been coming back.
    43.Kevin Costner has always been Dancing with Wolves, especially on cable.
    44.There have always been flat screen televisions.
    45.They have always eaten Berry Berry Kix.
    46.Disney’s Fantasia has always been available on video, and It’s a Wonderful Life has always been on Moscow television.
    47.Smokers have never been promoted as an economic force that deserves respect.
    48.Elite American colleges have never been able to fix the price of tuition.
    49.Nobody has been able to make a deposit in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).
    50.Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on.
    51.Britney Spears has always been heard on classic rock stations.
    52.They have never been Saved by the Bell
    53.Someone has always been asking: “Was Iraq worth a war?”
    54.Most communities have always had a mega-church.
    55.Natalie Cole has always been singing with her father.
    56.The status of gays in the military has always been a topic of political debate.
    57.Elizabeth Taylor has always reeked of White Diamonds.
    58.There has always been a Planet Hollywood.
    59.For one reason or another, California’s future has always been in doubt.
    60.Agent Starling has always feared the Silence of the Lambs.
    61.“Womyn” and “waitperson” have always been in the dictionary.
    62.Members of Congress have always had to keep their checkbooks balanced since the closing of the House Bank.
    63.There has always been a computer in the Oval Office.
    64.CDs have never been sold in cardboard packaging.
    65.Avon has always been “calling” in a catalog.
    66.NATO has always been looking for a role.
    67.Two Koreas have always been members of the UN.
    68.Official racial classifications in South Africa have always been outlawed.
    69.The NBC Today Show has always been seen on weekends.
    70.Vice presidents of the United States have always had real power.
    71.Conflict in Northern Ireland has always been slowly winding down.
    72.Migration of once independent media like radio, TV, videos and compact discs to the computer has never amazed them.
    73.Nobody has ever responded to “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
    74.Congress could never give itself a mid-term raise.
    75.There has always been blue Jell-O.