This Friday, February 14, 2014, I will reach an age milestone that scares a lot of people I will be 50. There are so many jokes associated with reaching this age, that I don’t have space to recount them all. Everyone already knows the best jokes, anyway. That said, being 50 today seems so different than what 50 was like for our parents and even for our older friends.
In the past, 50 was seen as old — old enough to start doing retiree sorts of things, even if you weren’t really retired. Old enough to be considering burial plots and wills and such. Old enough to think that you were on the downhill side of life. I really don’t think that is the case today, though, if you don’t want it to be. Sure, I can complain about the body aches, creaky knees and graying hair, but these aren’t really signs of advanced old age, just signs of physically reaching the age where these things happen.
Douglas and Rosanne, 1986, Bowling Green State University
For me, I actively seek out ways of keeping my life new and fresh. I try to engage with those younger than I am. I want to talk to them and, even more, I want to listen to them. I want to find out what they think about the world without the burden of everything I have experienced and everything that has changed so much in the last 50 years. The world has changed a lot since 1964 when I was born. We had the Vietnam War, traveled to the Moon, witnessed the long struggle of the Civil Rights movement, seen economic highs and lows, been rich and poor and watched as technology transformed our world.
Sometimes, though, all this experience can limit you. Nostalgia is a horrible thing. It can trap you in the past with outdated ideas, thoughts and actions. In some ways, I think that nostalgia can be one great factor in how old you feel and how you act when you reach 50. I am smart enough to know that, even with all the problems we still face, life is better overall than it was when I was growing up. More people have more opportunities to be more successful than ever before. There are more opportunities for freedom in your choice of career, religion, life partner and the type of life you want to live than ever before. We should revel in this fact, not rosily remember some past that never really existed.
I remember the 1970’s and I am not that inclined to ever want to return there. Sure, growing up in a small town had its benefits, but it also had its bigotry, beatings and bullying. While there are still segments of our society and the world that lag behind others, it should only drive us on to make the world a better place, not depress us in our inability to solved every problem, every time.
Douglas and Rosanne, 2014
So, I won’t nostalgia convince me that life was better back then or that my life can’t continue to grow until the day that I die. In fact, I want to be learning something new as I await the end. I envision reading the latest book, listening to the latest music and watching the latest entertainment (if TV is even still around in its present form) as my eyes close for the last time. We often hear that life is short and indeed it is. There is never enough time to accomplish everything we want. That does not mean that we stop seeking new accomplishments just because we reach a specific point in our chronological age. It means we keep striving, keep growing, keep learning and keep trying to make the world a better place until we can’t anymore.
Here’s a toast to seeing another 50 years!
Previously on End of the Day:
- The Dad Cycle — End of the Day for February 10, 2014
- Stillness, silence and sand — End of the Day for February 9, 2014
- Parental Robots? – End of the Day for February 8, 2014
- Topics of (dis)interest – End of the Day for February 7, 2014
- Home again — End of the Day for February 6, 2014
- …but Mom, he followed me home! — End of the Day for February 5, 2014
- All parenting is ad lib – End of the Day for February 4, 2014
- A little bit of this and a little bit of nothing – End of the Day for February 3, 2014
- Was that rain on the roof? – End of the Day for February 2, 2014
- Growing up – End of the Day for February 1, 2014
- End of the Day for January 2014