April 4, 2014 was the day I turned 50.
My guess is that many of us have spent – or will spend – an inordinate amount of time thinking about reaching half a century. We admire our fortitude that has kept us going long enough to see this milestone. Yet we may simultaneously fear the other side of this day as we imagine the next fifty years as a more rapid slide towards the cemetery.
I’ll admit, the image of myself reaching the top of the 50 hill, stretching out my arms in glee, and then tucking myself down into a ball for the long somersault of aging has taken shape in my mind on more than one occasion.
My brother-in-law even announced that on his appointed day, he would actually be turning “forty-glix” and it would bear a symbol much like the one adopted by the artist formerly known as Prince. A sort of secret hieroglyph recognizable only to those in the know – those who didn’t want to admit (mostly to themselves) that they were turning 50 either.
But I’m okay with 50 and as much as I like the idea of doodling a pictograph for my age, I’ll own up to my years. Truth is, I never thought I’d make it to this far. (Do we all have those thoughts, or is it just me?)
Up until my late 20s, I was certain I’d only live to 36. Why 36, I have absolutely no idea. But I was sure of it; I’d be dead by 36 so no point in planning a future.
That changed when I was 28. I modified the age of my demise down to 33, and no, not because of Jesus or anything, but because a doctor diagnosed me with a life-threatening illness and told me I probably had “a good five years to live.”
By the time 33 came and went, I was still alive. 36 came and went and I was still alive. Still healthy, I spent my 40th birthday weekend on the African island of Zanzibar where I stayed in a glorious room with a stone bathtub that was half indoors, half outdoors.
As midnight struck and the clock rang in my new decade, I soaked in the tub and watched the sky above as the full moon ducked in and out of view behind a swath of hibiscus flowers on the trellised wall to my left.
In the end, I said unkind things about that doctor and got on with my life. My vibrant, busy life that clearly was not ending anytime soon.
The year I turned 45 I began writing in earnest. I’d always written, but never with any consistency nor honestly, much clarity.
In my 48th year – the year of the dragon, my Chinese sign – I left my career at the United Nations, started a reggae band, fell in love and focused my energy primarily on my creative passions. I’ve since published several pieces, earned a few awards and distinctions, and am about to start an MFA in Creative Writing.
As I turn 50, I’m starting not only a new decade, or this new blog, but also a new chapter in my life. I can’t wait to see what the next fifty years have in store – bring it on!