Question: What makes you feel older than turning 50 yourself?
Answer: Watching your younger siblings turn 50.
Which my baby brother does this weekend. And in honor of the event, I am passing along a list generated by friends, which features the Good, the Bad and the Ugly about being a 50-something.
Let's start with a positive, shall we? The thing about being in your 50s is that you know yourself pretty well. You know, for example, that any movie that lasts longer than two hours will end up boring you. Or that you're always going to order a cheese enchilada at the Rio Grande cafÃ© even though you sometimes flirt with the idea of going all crazy and ordering a chicken chimichanga instead. Or that you prefer nonfiction to fiction, unless, of course, you're talking about mysteries written by gloomy Scandinavians. Or that while you'd love to go back to school and become a nurse, you realize that you're careless with medication, which isn't a particularly desirable trait in a health care provider.
There's a real comfort in knowing who you are, even when you don't always love who you are.
As for a downside, well, it's true that things can start to slip a little in your 50s. Like your energy level. Or the discs in your lower back. Or your memory. Oy! The memory thing! Names and phone numbers and random trivia about celebrities (wait how many kids does Brangelina have?) that you knew cold yesterday can momentarily elude you today. So frustrating! But don't worry. People are forgiving when you forget. After all, you're 50! And besides, you'll remember eventually. (Six! Brangelina has six kids!)
See what I mean?
Another positive about life in your 50s? Perspective. You begin to sense that some of those things you thought were sooooo important when you were younger like which teacher your kid got for kindergarten don't actually matter very much. And speaking of perspective, you also realize you're gonna die one day.
Um. This is a positive? Please hear me out. When you're a kid you understand that death happens. You buy a pet goldfish. It dies. Your mom talks to you about death, and (as a result) you learn this crucial life lesson, i.e., that goldfish make completely unsatisfactory pets and there's no point in buying another one. Meanwhile, death remains an abstraction. A noun with a lower case "d." Something that happens to fish. And other people. Never to you.
But when you hit your 50s? Fine. You completely get that a pale rider on a pale horse will be making an unscheduled stop at your door one day. This realization causes you to assess how you spend your time. You even start saying "no" to certain things you might have (necessarily) taken on when you were younger.
Tiny example here: I used to feel morally obligated to stick with every book I ever started. It's like I took a vow and married it. But now? I just date books, and they have to seriously charm me by the first 30 pages, otherwise I'm all, hey, thanks for the flowers and dinner, but I'm outta here, because life is too short.
Saying no to stuff that doesn't matter means there's time to say yes to the things that do whatever that happens to be for you. Family. Friends. A hobby. A career. Community. Church. A really great cause. And because you're in your 50s now, you know what those things are.
Happy birthday, Jimmy.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/anncannontrib.