On July 18, 2012 I turned 50 years old. It was a great, fun-filled day with friends and family and lots of happiness. Easily one of the best days I can remember, ever. And I remembered something else right then, just as I hit the half-century milestone. Fifty. What’s that like?
I was 9 years old when my dad turned 50. I remember thinking then and for decades after, into my early 30′s at least, that 50 was a strange and foreign place wherein the denizens were old and, well, different. Not relatable. They thought differently, about different things, and operated on a somehow different plane. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it and probably didn’t have those exact thoughts, but I very clearly remember having those feelings throughout many years.
It turns out that I was wrong. That will hopefully come as a surprise to many of you. “Hopefully” because that means I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.
At 50, things are largely the same. Allow me expansive license here. I realize that time has tempered, changed and moderated me. Provided perspective, experience, and wisdom. Certainly many things have changed but the core of me remains. Things are the same, but looked at sideways instead of straight on. I have the same memories, attitudes, feelings, and behaviors. Where I was peculiar, I am still peculiar. What bothered me then still bothers me now. Many of the things I worry about have followed me through the years.
Separated by decades from my youth I have similar desires, reactions and an abundance of characteristics that identify me as me. I wear the same Adidas shoes I’ve worn since my 20′s because I still like them the best. When I concentrate and use my hands simultaneously, like now while I’m writing, my tongue slides back and forth across my lower lip as it has since I was in kindergarten. I no longer get whacked with a ruler for doing so; that’s a plus. I still snort when I laugh. I never, ever exaggerate or use extreme words to describe everything, just like I’ve never done. The list goes on endlessly and it’s all still happening, as it always has.
I am not an entirely different entity on the inside. This was unexpected when I remember back to the 9 year old who first broached the topic. I had no idea then that my dad was still a person. It was an eye-opening revelation when I realized that I’d become that guy. Not so changed and mysterious, more the same than different.
On the outside, of course, I’m filling the stereotype more and more. I groan when I stand up, but I’ve done that since I was 30! I look older than I did at 49 even; it was a very stressful year and time caught up several years all at once. The gray in my hair isn’t much yet, but it’s not occasional anymore either. My knees ache more with osteoarthritis every day. I ripped them both in my early 30′s and the pain has been around for awhile. As different as I’ve become, it’s not really new. More the current state of a 25 year evolution of aging. Different and the same. I’ve got a small kidney scare that’s due more to a “non-optimal” diet and years of eating ibuprofen to silence my knees than age. The most marked physical dissimilarity I notice is the conversations I have with longtime friends about our various ailments.
As I’m writing this, I catch myself thinking think this way about 70 year olds. That they are different, they can’t relate to me, they think about some unknown old person things. Unbelievable, right? I am composing this keenly insightful post about recognizing the younger within the older, and so I’m perplexed. Is this bias? Timeout, Rich. Remember, they aren’t someone else — just an older version of the themselves they have always been. They are not a separated class of olden beings. They think the same thoughts they used to, just as I do. I will be like them, and I will still be me, 20 years from now.
Did you ever think how similar your big 5-0 might be to the fledgling version of you? That maybe the aged aren’t as far removed from their once was counterparts as you might believe? Actually relatable, and closer to the same than different. Do you see it now?
I’ve waited all year to write this, until the very last minute. I turn 51 tomorrow, in less than an hour. But maybe the last minute is the right time. We expect that things will always be the same, that there will always be time. As it turns out, sometimes that’s right. 50 is 30 is 20 is 10. Once upon a time, I didn’t know that.
Now you do.