What I Love About Being 50-Something

Old man faceLife: They say the first 100 years are the hardest. I’m roughly half way there, and so far they’re right, but that doesn’t account for the whole adventure.

The average life span of a person only a few hundred years ago would have me looking at the end right now. Maybe that’s why I feel like I’m only beginning; like there is still room for a whole new life to start and end before curtain time on this story.

I am fed up with people my age believing that being half way through life means being half dead.

From where I am now, I hear more and more people my age bitch about the aches and pains and maladies on bodies they themselves neglected and betrayed, bitch about their lost opportunities and failed dreams and ignore the new ones in front of them while they bathe in “too late to start now,” bitch and lament about the failed relationships they find again and again because they never looked at themselves honestly and did the work to change the damaging patterns they cling to.

I see them looking back in mourning at the life they saw from their 20’s and 30’s, so bright with potential, pitying themselves on the tiny corner of “enough” they allowed life to beat them into — still, static, rhythmic ASLEEP. I see them carrying on their shoulders the bulging, useless pile of baggage they never let go of, the old pain, limited beliefs, harbored grudges, the guilt and shame of old selves they never discarded, all dragged along in an eclectic pile of musty un-forgiveness.

They talk of aging as though it’s a blight, a disease, a feebly concealed sin. They enable their self-desertion by hiding behind the hoax of a “culture only for the young.” They buy the lie that “age” is anything more than a number, and miss the truth that the only thing that separates the old from the young is experience.

I revel in my experience. My age is a right, a privilege, and a gift; it is a wealth and a mystery and a prize, age is the dreams of youth come true.

I first learned the hard lessons of letting go of what burdened my joy, ate my soul, and stole my innocence, back in my early twenties. It gets harder as you go. What I used to have to let go of in a year, I now must do every month; I do it daily, just to stay in shape, to stay clear and AWAKE. Like an aging athlete, I work harder just to stay fit. I reinvent, and reinvent, and reinvent.

And I love it.

I love being “old”. I love my experience. My breadth of accumulated knowledge and experience is a super power. I can use it to heal, to guide, and to enlighten others. I can solve problems others cannot, understand to a depth I never could, explain what I could never articulate, defend what I never knew was worthy of defending; I have a perspective wider than I could have dreamed, a compassion greater than I could have known, and understanding, acceptance, and love of myself that lets me be genuine and available and vulnerable and brave.

I love that I can say the hard things to someone I love because they need to hear it, even if it means losing them, that I am actually able to love without condition, to love those in pain when it is so fucking hard to love them, to have the courage to be hurt for the prize of experiencing love to my core, that I can walk upright with a broken heart, certain it will mend itself in time.

I love that I have died a thousand deaths, cast away a thousand Gary’s, but can still dig down through the old layers, the archaeology of who I am, to comprehend the fullness of my landscape without reliving the pain of the past.

I love what I have seen in my time, that I have witnessed the arc of culture and stood in the footprints of change. I love that I can know my contribution, that I can point to the tiles in the mosaic of the evolving world and say, “That bit there, that is mine!”

I love that I do not feel old, that I understand that now is always Now, that age is a myth and time is an illusion. I love that I feel 20-something, but don’t have to relive 20-somethng.

I do not feel old, I feel immortal.

My last wish on the last day of my life is to be able to still want more.

Looking back at 20-something from 50-something, I am grateful and humble and honored at my place, and I can’t wait to look back from 150-somethng.Old woman face