Halfway There

Please welcome guest author Kelly Jensen to the Cafe.

Forty-five isn’t as scary as it seems from the lee side of forty. I expected to feel older once I got here (and just a little bit past), but I still feel like me. I’m more relaxed than I was at thirty-five and more cautious than I was at twenty-five. I am more content. I am happier.

I’m also a little bit tired, and—oddly—somewhat dismayed by the fact that if I live until I’m ninety, I’m only halfway there.

All of my characters have a little bit of me in them. I give them one of my habits—good or bad—and a couple of my neurosis. Very few approach my own age, however. Twenty-something is fun to write because everything is new to a new adult. Life is full of possibility. But as I traverse my forties, I’ve discovered the same can be true. I just need a little more sleep in order to embrace all that possibility. So does one of my favourite guys, Jared Tailler.

Jared just turned forty-five, and for him, the halfway mark is fraught with change. His job takes him across the country for weeks to months at a time. The itinerant lifestyle suits him. He doesn’t connect easily to others, so moving on before he really has to set down roots gives him an excuse to maintain distance. But he’s so good at what he does, his boss wants him to train others to do the same thing—and then manage them from the home office. After twenty years, he’s being grounded.

The idea of being stuck in one place terrifies Jared because he understands that if his life slows down, he’ll be forced to take stock of who he is and where he’s going. He’s single, has been for five years, and his last lover broke his heart. Maybe. He’s not sure on that point—thinking about it would involve acknowledging the fact that he’s currently alone and lonely. Not happy, and not getting any younger. So he signs up for a hiking tour with a company that caters to gay men.

While I enjoyed nudging my reticent accountant toward connecting with the attractive and amiable Finley Macrae, the most entertaining part of writing “Out in the Blue” was the hiking. Or, rather, the morning after his first day of hiking. The fun of writing someone close to my own age is being able to commiserate. Jared woke with sore ankles, sore knees, and convinced a donkey had kicked him in the lower back during the night. A bear might also have taken a chunk out of one of his calf muscles, leaving him crippled.

What can I say? I gifted Jared with my own sense of drama, as well as my creaky knees.

I was also able to celebrate his accomplishments too. The thrill of climbing a mountain, the feeling of all that open sky above him, the moment he realised he would complete the hike, and his decision to kiss Finley. The subsequent decision to take that kiss upstairs and properly connect with another human being for the first time in years. And the morning after. Jared waking up with Fin by his side. Exploring the feeling of companionship and looking forward to more.

Because forty-five is really only halfway there (for most of us—for more and more of us), and it would be a shame for Jared to waste the rest of his life wondering: am I happy? Or: is this all there is?

No, Jared, there is so much more. And now you’ve met Fin, you’ve got at least half a lifetime to share it all with him.

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Out in the Blue

Out in the Blue coverAt forty-five, Jared Tailler suddenly feels old. When his employer grounds him, he starts thinking in terms of measuring his coffin. Well, not quite, but he’s creakier and hairier than he was ten years ago, and his closest relationship is the one he has with his frequent-flyer card. 

It’s time to get out there. 

On the first day of a five-day hiking trip, he meets Finley Macrae, a younger, seemingly brighter man. As they inch together in halting steps, Jared learns he’s not the only one lost out in the blue—Fin’s good cheer hides a turbulence deeper than Jared’s midlife crisis. Maybe together they can find the trail to happiness. 

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Daily Dose package “Never Too Late.”

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Born in Australia and raised everywhere else, Kelly Jensen now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter and herd of four cats. After disproving the theory that water only spins counter-clockwise around drains north of the equator, she turned her attention to more productive pursuits such as reading, writing, writing about reading and writing stories of her own.

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