Today is the day I start my seventh decade, but I’m not hung up on age, and don’t remember ever having been. Except of course back when I was in my teens and wanted to hit that magic age where it was officially legal to do just about anything. After all, age is nothing but a label that lets the world how long you’ve been breathing, and perhaps a measuring stick regarding how you should look or act.
Still, it makes me think back to some of the other memorable milestones, and what I was doing or how I felt at the time.
I was a senior in college when I turned 21. My future was a vast, blank landscape, but I didn’t think any further ahead than graduation day because I was having too much fun. My priorities in life were getting good grades, getting laid, playing baseball, and finding the next party. And not necessarily in that order.
At 25, I was on my own, living in a different state, and embarking on a career.
At 30, I was married, and in the process of buying my first house, which turned out to be a colossal money pit, and a hard lesson learned.
Some milestones bother people, but I never gave them much thought, except for the day I turned 35. I don’t know what so was traumatic about that particular age. I was entrenched in what turned out to be a successful career, happily married and wasn’t financially stressed. The thing about 35 was that, for the first time, I saw myself as getting older, which was a foreign concept until then. I was nearing middle age, and that bothered me. A lot. But it was short lived.
I was living in Southern Indiana when 40 came knocking, having uprooted several years earlier from Connecticut because there weren’t any opportunities to reach the next level in my career. The fact that I was getting sick of the state for some reason I can’t remember also factored into it, and I would have bet everything I owned that I would never return.
At 40, I was a first time father of a one year old and completely smitten. Things were good, as I was happy in both my personal and professional lives. Then people started dying, most of them unexpectedly, and we moved back to Connecticut within a year.
50 was a big one, but I didn’t feel like I was a half-century old. I wasn’t upset about getting love letters from AARP, but I didn’t exactly embrace it either. Truthfully, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I remember hearing someone say 50 is the new 30, and that felt right. I didn’t think of myself as old or being on the downhill side of life. K surprised me by having some dear friends fly in from out of state to celebrate the occasion. It was a wonderful surprise, and I had a great time. Too great, as it turned out, because I suffered acute stomach distress and upheaval due to alcohol consumption. That self-inflicted malady hasn’t occured since. Maybe wisdom does come with age.
In retrospect, the biggest development when the age of 50 came around was that MS entered my life the year before. I had a permanent limp that was just becoming noticeable. My foot was drooping, but I could still get around easily and do all the man things around the house. I didn’t need a cane yet, and I it would be another year before I experienced my first fall year. Still, the cracks in my armor were showing, and would soon become more pronounced.
I thought of 55 as the speed limit birthday, because that was the speed limit on most Connecticut highways for the longest time, but 55 meant nothing to me. It was just a number and another day, like all the others.
Now that I am 60, my thoughts are no different than in years past, other than the fact, well, I’m 60! Generously speaking, I am at the tail end of middle age, but realistically, I am well past the half-way point in life, and will soon be considered a senior citizen. How the hell did that happen so quickly?
Mentally, I don’t feel any different than when I was in my 20s and 30s, but I’m more in tune with the world around me. I’m better equipped to handle the curves life throws, and I’ve had my share of doozies. I enjoy the slower pace, and appreciate the little things. I’m content. I don’t get as hung up on the materialistic trappings of my youth, and stopped climbing the corporate ladder years ago. Of course, MS had a lot do with that.
I certainly enjoy winding down at night. I enjoy and appreciate sleep more, although K would tell you I don’t get nearly enough. She’s right about that, but when the clock hits 10, my head wants to hit the pillow. Back in the day, the only thing I was interested in hitting when 10 rolled around was the road, because that is when the fun really started.
I find myself thinking about retirement, looking forward to an empty nest, and embracing this new stage in life. I’m looking forward to moving into the new house, where everything is on one floor, and being alone with my bride. I’m looking forward to greeting each day as a blank slate, where I’m free to do what I want. I’m looking forward to not having any time pressures or obligations. I’ve earned this, but it’s also a double-edge sword.
I understand this is going to be my last house, and that I am probably going to die there. I know that the sun is setting on the stretch of road I’m on, but hope this road is a long one, and that the view is beautiful when I reach its end. If I am fortunate to follow my parent’s path, I have another thirty plus years before I get there, which is half of the life I’ve already lived. I’m down for that.
60 is the on-ramp to this new road that I have just merged onto. It’s a scenic route with a slower speed limit, and I’m in no hurry to explore everything it has to offer. I plan on a leisurely journey, and to milk every pleasure I can. I am still middle aged, after all, but not for long.
My brother turns 70 in June, my next big milestone. When that occurs, I won’t be able to bullshit myself or anyone else. I will be old.
But it beats the alternative.