So I just turned 50 and somehow this time, it was the first time that I felt this “marker” was relevant. There are all kinds of markers throughout life, sometimes referred to as milestones, but which ones are really relevant? I’ve always thought that it’s an individual thing. We tend to see the start of a new decade as a big marker and I’m calling them markers because I don’t much care for the word milestone. It makes it feel like I have some actual predetermined destination when in fact having lived 50 years, I can honestly say that I have no clue where the road leads. So, for me, even though it’s just a word, the word milestone implies that at some point I will reach the final destination. But holy shit, when I get to thinking that I’ve now reached the 50 year milestone and realize that I have no friggen clue where I’m going, I find that word stressful. It makes me feel a little lost…actually, very lost. So forget the word milestone. I don’t need to be totally lost on my way to who knows where. I don’t know about your milestones but my numerical milestones did not come with any clues. Maybe it’s implied. Okay, so the clue when I got to 50 is to make it to 60. Is that it? That doesn’t sound like much of a reason to play this game. There’s got to be another way to play it but I’ve never actually thought about this lack of clues before.
This past year, without necessarily consciously deciding to do this, I found myself looking back a lot and being absolutely fascinated. I would think about what I was doing just ten years ago, where was I, what had brought me there, where was I going. And then it felt like it was an eternity ago. But then, I’d try to remember what I was doing at 35 and let me tell you, I had to wrack my noodle and concentrate to piece back together that part of my life because 15 years is a long time ago. Let’s face it, that was way back in the 20th century! Other days I was trying to reach back to when I was 20 and then 22 and then 26. Never before have I so often reached back in time to have a little look-see. Oh yeah, I tell stories about this thing and that thing that happened or that I remember or that I’m merely sharing with people or new people I’ve just met, but the intention is to convey a specific story. This year I was just looking back and I don’t know really why I was doing that but at some point I came to the conclusion that somehow there was meaning to this particular marker, to turning 50.
I didn’t feel this way turning 40. It was really just another year to me then. But when I thought about it, there are changes that happen around this 50 year mark that are most akin to the changes that happen around the 13 year mark. So I have a feeling that whether I’m aware of it or not, this might be playing a role in the significance of it all. And then there’s probably a bit of beliefs that factor in…you know, these ideas that now you’re on your way to getting old and that you’re at least halfway through and time is no longer on your side and a bunch of other rather restrictive and scary sounding conclusions that get you to start judging yourself about what you’ve done and not done and then there’s the damn bucket list, as if that doesn’t add another stress to the equation because holy shit, I haven’t even written out my bucket list yet.
Well anyway, maybe subconsciously I found all that way of looking at things to be far too depressing. And one could say that when you’re looking back instead of forward, you’re going the wrong way. Be present, they say, live in the now. Ha, well I just spent a full year living in my past and guess what, I ended up hitting 50 feeling pretty damn impressed with myself! Not because I made it this far, but when I realized how much I’ve done in the last 50 years, how many experiences I’ve had, how much really happens in a lifetime and how so very long it really is, I found it exciting. Just imagine, when I would think back to what I was doing 30 years ago and it just feels so far away, so very very long ago, it makes me wonder why we say that time flies. Time doesn’t fly, 30 years really is a very long time. It’s actually rather exhausting to think of all the things I’ve done in the last 30 years, nevermind fully 50 years and guess what, I have at least another 50 to go. More twists and turns, more adventures, more ideas, more people to meet, more things to learn, more to explore, more time to wonder what the hell you were thinking when you decided to zig instead of zag. There’s more than enough time, that’s what I think. So very many things can be done in that amount of time. I can’t even remember every moment of my life so far. Some days a memory would pop into my mind, maybe just a rather meaningless moment that wasn’t marked by any particular achievement, just a moment, and I’d say, “Oh yeah, I’d forgotten!”. Not that it was remarkable in any way, but a moment. For example, I remembered one day, as a child, we were travelling across the country by car, moving out to the West Coast. We had stopped for the night and gone in to some Chinese diner for supper. As the waitress walked by our table with a huge tray full of another table’s meals, the woman tripped on her very high heels and went flying down the aisle and five meals went flying into a bunch of clients sitting at another table while she landed flat on her ass. Moo goo guy pan absolutely everywhere!!! My brother caught shit for that because my mother thought he’d purposely put his leg out to trip her. He hadn’t. She was in four inch heels. It was her own doing and one day surely she turned 50 and wondered what she was thinking wearing heels like that on her shift that night. So, an unremarkable memory but suddenly this year I remembered it and I laughed just as hard as I did that day. One of many many many moments in my life, and a very funny one at that, worth remembering for the joy it brought me. I love it when people fall flat on their asses, it makes me laugh.
So I hit 50 being extremely proud for all the things I’ve done, all the things I’ve tried, all the paths I’ve taken, all the things I’ve learned, all the people I’ve met, all the changes that have happened, all the times I’ve laughed, all the times I’ve cried, everything that has shaped me and the list just goes on and on. It’s truly fascinating all that we do in a lifetime and the evolution we experience. If there has been this much in 50 years, imagine how much more there is to come. Imagine!!!
What a fun thing life is. Admittedly though, it’s taken me until now to get the point. I’ve been too serious about it without even having the faintest clue what was so serious about it. Somewhere between around 35 and 50, for some reason that I’m hard pressed to find, life got serious and I can’t even tell you why because I have no clue. I suspect though that it has something to do with this concept of milestones. Milestones…pashaw! What a bunch of stressful bullshit that is. Would you like to tell me what exactly it was that I was supposed to accomplish by the age of 50? Because here I am and I don’t know if I pulled it off or not. And if I celebrate “having made it to here”, then it implies that I’ve been in survival mode all this time. So did I grace this earth to survive and kill myself making it to the next milestone on the way to my final destination which is what, my grave? Or did I come here to live a life? And what is a life anyway? What I’ve come up with so far is that my life has been all the things I’ve done, all the people I’ve met, all the things I’ve learned, all the experiences I’ve had, and all there is to come. And so, at 50 I am celebrating the fact that I’m pretty damn proud of myself, in fact extremely proud of all that I’ve done, who I’ve become, and the fun things I’ve figured out along the way. I’ve made some pretty wonky decisions along the way and wondered what the hell I was thinking at the time, but today they make for great stories and I so love to tell stories.
So what is 50? Well, I could say that it’s halfway there because I’ll easily live 100 years but maybe I’m not even halfway there yet and in the end, where am I going? I am halfway to where? Huh? Exactly, maybe I’m halfway, maybe not, but is it relevant unless my final destination is a number? I’ll never know if I got there because I’m on my way to where. Yup, I’m going to “where”…someday I’ll be there…maybe. Hmmm, well that’s not too exciting now is it? But when I looked back this year, it finally clicked what they mean about the journey and not the destination. There is no damn destination because if I got there, then what? So I just spent 50 years trying to reach some nebulous destination, I guess I thought it would become clear to me. Hahaha, the joke was on me. There was no destination. Can you imagine how long it took me, jumping from one lily pad to the next hoping there was a big prize at the end of the path? So for me, the reason reaching 50 is so big is because now I have an idea that I really like…I’ve reached the destination…the point at which I let go of that objective and get on with the journey. What I like are the stories. I love having stories to tell and every day is a story, every day something happens. That feels like fun. I like how that sounds. I’m going to go with that. And guess what, it gets even better because since the idea is to look for the stories, now it doesn’t matter one bit which direction I take at any given time because whether I go left or right or forward, there will be a story to tell. I’ll refrain from going backwards because I’ve already been there and I can tell that story a million times if I want to. What do you think? Does that sound like a viable plan? Either way, I’m happy with who I am today, whether I made it to where or not. And I think that’s a good thing. Onwards…