35: What does it mean to be 35?

Five Rhode Islanders muse on their lives, three-and-a-half decades down the road
By PHILIP EIL  |  November 20, 2013

"IT'S EVERYTHING I FEARED IT WOULD BE AND...I LOVE IT" Dvorchak. [Photos by Richard McCaffrey]

By the time you hit age 35, you can legally vote, drink, enlist, star in a porn, rent a car, and run for president. But you’re still a long ways off from those later, less glamorous benefits like “senior citizen” museum fares and Social Security checks.

So what does it mean to be 35, exactly? We tracked down a few 35-year-olds to help us explain.

Before you begin reading, though, we apologize for the article’s slightly skewed gender demographics. For some reason, ladies weren’t exactly rushing contribute to this piece. Huh.


David Dvorchak , communications director at AS220

As a younger man, I used to dread aging. “Older people” seemed so far removed from me and my friends. What the hell had happened to them?

I knew that at one point, some of these people had been “cool” and had accomplished great feats, grabbed life by the throat and bent it to their will. I had witnessed these marvels, read about them, or seen photographic or video documentation. Those who made it out of their twenties, by and large, now seemed to be all but lost. They had faded away, caught up in bizarre things that I didn’t want to know about like “careers” or “families” and other nonsense.

And then, perhaps even worse, were those that were still out there trying to run with the pack, hanging on to their old glories like grim death while clearly past their expiration date. It all seemed awful. Thirty seemed like the drop-off point, all downhill from there. But 35? Did 35 year olds even EXIST? That wasn’t going to be me. I was going to run all of these old farts over and then somehow triumphantly go up in flames well before then, sparing myself then indignities of the aging process.

Yet, somehow, here I am. I turned 35 this year, despite it all.

My once bountiful hair is beating a hasty retreat from my head. I no longer have the body of a 20-year-old collegiate swimmer. I can’t eat or drink anything that I damn well please without “paying for it” somehow, some way. I rarely have the stamina to stay out all night, catch a brief sleep — or none at all — and then do it all over again the next day without missing a beat. Even when I do, the idea of having a relaxing night at home – a home that I own and am responsible for — and retiring at a reasonable hour is much more appealing than it ever used to be. In addition to my 40-hour-a-week adult job, my other job — the real one — is being the best husband I can be to my wife. That takes up most of the rest of my time.

It’s everything that I feared it would be and. . . I love it.

My 20s seemed to be about surviving, just getting by. Now is my time. Now things are happening. I’ve never been as wise, as confident, as sure of myself and my place in the world as I am now at 35. I have a wonderful, committed relationship with my amazing, loving, and supportive wife. I’ve been employed at great jobs, at Providence Community Library and now AS220, where I felt my work was making a difference in people’s lives — not just punching a clock, collecting a paycheck, or fattening someone’s bottom line. I’ve challenged myself to become more active and to learn new things — playing guitar, operating movie cameras and shooting film and still photos — instead of just merely taking it all in.

So while I now find myself scratching my head at the youth of today, and it does seem like they’re poised to take over the world like I was at that age, I’m reminded of Pete Townshend in the documentary about the Who, The Kids Are Alright. The filmmakers juxtapose a clip of him as a young man affirming that, yes, he does hope he dies before he gets old, with a later clip of him onstage, probably in his mid-30s. His clothes are weirder, he’s got a beard, he looks slightly tired, aged. He turns to the crowd and challenges the audience, “I’ve got a guitar up here, if anything big-mouthed little git wants to try and fucking take it off me!”


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