When I was in my teens, I never thought I"d live to be 40. I"d die in a car wreck, or I"d overdose on drugs, or I"d get shot by a jealous husband, I thought. No way in hell would I live to hit the age of 40. And I still may not, but I took one more step toward that magic number on Tuesday, when I turned 38. I"ve never paid much attention to birthdays since my childhood, when I"d clean up on gifts. These days, my grandma gives me a present and my sister cooks me a birthday dinner. That"s more than enough for me. Presents are for kids and those who are looking forward to getting older. Other than 18 and 21, which legalized me to the rest of society, the rest of the increasing numbers haven"t meant very much to me. When I was 30, I wrote a column where I lamented passing that milestone and I worried about what it meant. "It"s not fair, this aging thing, because in some peoples" eyes I can never, by definition, be hip again. There"s a vast difference between a person in his 20s slam-dancing and a person in his 30s slam-dancing. One is cool; the other is not. "... So I must leave Snoop Doggy Dogg and 2Pac behind and adjust to a new, middle-aged lifestyle of Barry Manilow, Anita Baker and Kenny G. Death is beginning to look ever more attractive. "So long, Jolt Cola; hello, Fresca. Goodbye, MTV; hello, VH-1. See you later, Pearl Jam; hello, Neil Young." As usual, my predictions were full of shit. My listening habits haven"t changed much at all. I don"t listen to Pearl Jam much anymore, but that"s because they suck, not because I"m too old. I still play 2Pac at my home constantly and "Pac keeps releasing new albums even though he died six years ago. Even Snoop Dogg hits my CD player every now and then, despite not having made a great record in some time. As for my worries about being hip, that"s a laugh. I wasn"t hip when I was 17, or when I was 29, so it"s silly to worry about that now. I wore concert T-shirts and Pacers caps when I was a kid; I wear them now. I didn"t give a fuck about what people said about me back then, and I care only a little more now. I was quick to wave my middle finger to the world when I was a teen-ager, and I still reserve the right to do so now. Just about the only thing that age has done to me, except advance me closer to the grave, is make me less willing to break the law. I won"t drive down the street smoking a joint anymore and I"d have to be more drunk than I"ve ever been to take a baseball bat to a mailbox now. Pete Townshend of the Who once sang that he hoped he died before he got old. Instead of dying and leaving a pretty corpse, he lives to this day, defying his earlier prediction. Like Neil Young, he discovered it"s better to fade away than to burn out. I guess everyone over a certain age discovers that, even if they forget it from time to time. Lots of things have changed since I turned 30, however, despite my attempts to keep my life exactly the same. Most importantly, I lost the two people in the world whose opinions I most respected. There isn"t a day that goes by where my late mother and Harrison J. Ullmann don"t enter my thoughts. I"m selfish. I miss the advice they used to give me. I miss the way they used to tell me to shut the fuck up and stop worrying. I miss the way they"d tell me I was dead wrong about something or another. But I try to emulate them in every way I can. They were survivors who endured any number of tragedies and setbacks in their lives and didn"t let it get to them. This past year has been one of the most difficult for me in a variety of ways. I"ve suffered through some health problems and some personal problems. And although events threatened to crush me, and came surprisingly close to doing so, I"m still alive and kicking, as of this writing, at least. The only piece of advice I can give to the younger generations is related to that. The world will fuck you over on any number of occasions. At least once or twice in your life, you"ll lose all your friends and pretty much everything else you have. People will laugh at you and mock you. You"ll feel like shit. But it won"t be the end of the world. While time doesn"t heal all wounds, it heals enough of them to go on with your life. The people who abandon you were never your friends to begin with, anyway. Any defeat you suffer is only temporary, because there is always another chance to redeem yourself. History is full of examples of people who overcame seemingly crushing events and ended up triumphant. There"s no reason you, or I, can"t do the same.