I woke up this morning and found myself 50 years old. It is a significant moment, a momentous occasion, a milestone worthy of celebration and revelry.
Except that it isn’t.
You see I don’t feel any different than I ever have. Oh sure I’m a bit rounder, significantly more grey, there are a couple aches and pains that refuse to go away, but all in all I feel the same as I did at 20, 30 or any of the other arbitrary numbers to which we assign importance. At the end of the day I remain as I always have, simply me.
I suppose there are differences. I’m much smarter than I once was (though to be fair I’m not nearly as smart as I will be one day). And believe it or not I’m much more of a nerd than I was when I was younger. I guess my nerdness is a particular skill I have honed and perfected over the years. And I have regrets. The one downside to living a long is remembering the ones you wronged.
I have faults, you see. I am quick to anger and will find at times my temper flaring at a perceived slight or injustice. My voice will raise and my tone will become harsh and mean. Some people I know call this being “passionate” when I know in truth it is simply being an “asshole.”
And I have a tendency to say what I’m thinking in uncensored ways regardless of the situation and whether or not it is appropriate. Again, there are those who say that I’m “being honest” or “keeping it real” but I know that there are times what I have said has offended and sometimes hurt. In all my 50 years I have not learned that sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all.
Despite this I think I’ve done pretty well though. I loved deeply through the years – people, places, and things – I am loyal to my friends and I adore my family. I’ve never been one to be upset at growing older. I don’t feel the anxiety that some do when new decades are reached and I’ve never tried to lie about my age or hide the effects of time. Because of this the fact that I’m turning 50 has not really been a concern (but obviously still something I feel the need to write 800 words about).
So what is the deal with 50 then? What is the real reason people fear and shun it? Well it’s the one thing we don’t want to talk about all that much. Time on this earth is limited and I have now used a significant portion of that time up. As such this is not only a time for celebration and reflection but also for preparation. Dying is no longer an abstract idea far in the future to be ignored but a real, tangible thing that is much closer than it once was. In recent weeks people have said to me, “you’re almost middle age!” This is a nice thought be let’s face it, how many 100 year olds do you know?
So now it is time to think of legacy, how will I be remembered? Will it be for the angry loud mouth that spouts off offensive at inappropriate times? Will it be for the loving husband and father that tries his best to teach and learn and support? Will it be for the art and stories I have produced over the years? Or will it simply be the loose concoction of Tweets and Facebook posts? Perhaps a combination of all these things.
Nothing is set in stone. I still have time to think and reflect and change. I still have time to right my wrongs, and still have time to make more mistakes. I still have time to love; I still have time to lose. I still have time to create, to bring beauty into this world, and to make people cry. I still have time to enjoy what life brings to me and to be horrified by the state of things around me. I still have time to grow.
So today, officially 50 years alive on this earth, I can say that I am not a perfect man but also I can say that I have tried to be one.
At the end of the day I can be only what I always have, simply me.
originally published 4/27/19