Now that the my fiftieth birthday is a thing in the relatively distant past, I have had some time to get over the shock of my commencing middle age and evaluate where I am in life. There were no shortage of things that I had to figure out how to accept. For example, at fifty, barring some medical miracle, I probably have more years of life behind me than ahead. That fact was put into grim perspective when my father died last year, given that he lived only another thirty-one years after his fiftieth birthday. Considering, to use one barometer, that I have lived in Texas for what seems like a short time, but in reality is twenty-four years, well, tempus fugit!
So in my mind it comes down to an evaluation of what I have accomplished in my life thus far, and a decision as to how I plan to spend the rest of my years. Without rhyme or reason or any sense of order, here’s what I came up with.
If I were to consider my first fifty years and give myself a grade, it would have to be about a C-. I have a fairly lengthy list of wouldashouldacouldas, culminating in the circumstances which lead to five years of very self-destructive behavior and a serious abuse of alcohol. I squandered a lot of money, time and talent on something that got me nowhere. I really don’t have any of the tangibles that mark the society imposed tokens of success. I don’t own a home, I don’t have a lot of money in the bank etc.
The great thing about turning fifty though is that half a century is a very useful line of demarcation. And for me, it symbolized the point at which I could put the mishaps and mayhem of my first five decades firmly in past, and start with a very clean slate. Today my life is peaceful. It is measured by good friends, good associations, a wonderful way to make a living and a lifestyle that is free of drama (except the drama that i create in the theater), worry and stress. For the first time in my adult life, I think I am living like an adult; pursuing healthy goals, meeting my obligations with regularity and contributing something good and wholesome to the world. That’s not to say everything is ideal, but I strive for progress and not perfection, and thus far, the progress has been steady and regular.
Being older has also led me to search through my ideas on spirituality on a much deeper level. While I will always remain a Christian at heart, I have explored other religions and other belief systems, and rethought just who I understand God to be, how he may or may not move in the world and specifically in my life. It’s been interesting to read about the actual history of the Christian religion. When you know how the Bible got assembled and the political machinations behind who was running things in those days, you can’t help but ask a lot of serious questions about what you’ve believed on faith for an entire lifetime.
I think perhaps the greatest gift of middle age is being able to give myself the permission to explore beyond what I have always believed, to freely choose a path that is most meaningful to me and to know that it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of my decisions and pursuits. Fifty for me has been synonymous with freedom.
So what does that bode for the future? The remainder of my life will be spent in new exploration and a new sense of calm. I also know that no matter what roads I take, they will be the roads of my own choosing, and that I will freely exercise the power to say no when I want to. My only regret at this point is the brevity of it all. There are so many places I haven’t seen and so many people that I haven’t met and I am sad that there just isn’t enough time to do it all.
But hey, I still have some years left, so I think that I will get busy with the exploration right away. I hope that somewhere along the journey, I meet you!