But alas, when combining all of the feedback, here is the consensus:
The tear is quite significant. Arthroscopy can be tried, but once they get in, it's quite possible a large portion of the meniscus would have to be removed, which will not repair itself. It would not mean I would be without pain, and would likely cause early arthritis. Most have suggested I just deal with it until the pain is not liveable, THEN get surgery. It's not like if I were 15, where they'd recommend I get it right away so I can heal quickly and get right out there again. At my age, even though I'm not "old", I'm old enough that this isn't good. It's not that I'm older than a lot of others who I know have had this surgery, it's just that there is a potential to make things worse, so the consensus is to let it go as long as possible at this level before opening it up to potentially worse. Then, once this is worse, have surgery and hopefully make it better.
And more of a bummer.... rowing is probably out too. I was thinking of beginning rowing next month. Found a class, tried it out, it's really neat. But now I need a new activity. This sucks. I hate being confined. And yeah, I've been swimming, but breaststroke is out too.
However, if I do want to try surgery eventually, I think I've narrowed down the best of the bunch re: knees and arthroscopy. Anyway, I should be grateful I can do anything, but I'm still really bummed out. This sucks. I thought mind over matter might win out, but it looks like not this time.