Blessings of the Quinquagenarian
I have a friend who says “growing older is not for sissies.” She’s quite right. Nobody gets too far along in his or her history unmarked.
If I could miraculously wake up tomorrow morning looking twenty-four without surgery, makeup, and soft lighting, I’d do it. I’d certainly like to have the relatively new parts I had at twenty-four. But not if I had to redo all I’ve done since I actually was twenty-four, and not if I had to give up what I know now that I didn’t know then.
Here are some blessings of being over 50:
1. I’ve ransomed my hostage to fortune. Soon after I turned 50, my daughter graduated from college. The relief of knowing that if I went missing or could no longer work, she could survive on her own was inestimable.
2. I’ve learned that Diogenes was right to throw that cup away. The story goes that Greek philosopher Diogenes threw away his only possession, a drinking cup, after seeing a child drinking from cupped hands. Possessions are more of a burden than a pleasure.
3. Everything’s paid for (except, of course, the unknown future). Another form of liberation.
4. Appearances don’t mean much. Few things or situations are what they seem.
5. I don’t have to live up to anything or prove myself to anybody. It’s wonderful to be less vulnerable to the opinions of others.
6. I’m tougher and more resilient now. And thus less vulnerable to drama and manipulation.
7. It’s easier to let things go. Everything here is finite, after all; and none of us gets out alive.
8. Time is clearly of the essence. Knowing that time is running out makes being here all the more precious. Living well is not the same as living large.
9. I’ve forgotten a great deal. Mercifully. Memory is largely clutter and fiction, and brooding, that frequent habit of the young (at least, it was my habit when I was young) is so painful.
10. Retirement is foreseeable. I have sold my life billable hour by billable hour for decades. I hope to have again, if only for a while, whole expanses of unstructured, unhurried time.