Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Growing Up Again

There is that which you come to know only after forgetting all that you thought you knew.

J. Philip Thomas
Hello Bruce
"Watchman, tell us of the night."
There's a mid day in the night.
I have a friend who is fast approaching her 50th birthday. I don't know why that is such an austere idea. It is just another day, another year. Why does the number 50 take on such weight in people's minds? Is it because when people reach the age of 50 they must stop considering themselves young? That's nonsense. That's one of the things I found out when the big 50 happened to me. At about that time I met a friend on the street in New York. She was a young woman with whom I had worked. When she learned I was turning 50 she said that I wasn't old and that in fact she was engaged to marry a man about the same age as me. She said she likes older men. That made my day.

Here's another thing I learned. I learned that the only thing I really knew was that I really didn't know very much. All through the first 40 years or so I was sure that by the age of 50 I would know the important things of life. But I found myself still bearing an often juvenile sense of myself and others. I thought "Here I've lived half a century where is all this wisdom I'm supposed to have?" That's when I began to start, to attempt, to hope, to try to get educated. It's been a slow but interesting process since then, and it's still going on.

Another thing I learned, setting aside the arrogance of the young which I will reserve for a different discussion, was that other men and women approximately my age were probably no smarter than I was. And that certainly proved to be true on many levels. The older people who had intimidated me while growing up really did not deserve my awe and fearfulness, which made me think back upon many of the teachers I had.

From the age of 50 on I also began to listen to other people instead of just listening to myself. In other words, I began to develop a higher sense of social contact. I grew less judgmental and more open to the ideas of people I would normally have argued with. I learned that it doesn't make any sense to be an absolutist about anything. as far as human life and experience is concerned.

I then also began to learn a lot about myself. "Know thyself." Knowing thyself is a difficult scholarship. It requires some fact facing and some face facing. To trade in middle age for senior citizenship may seem at first thought to be a frightening prospect, but if successfully done there is a crown to win and wear. Those who wear the crown are more valuable to themselves and the world than those who haven't won it yet.

Now I look forward in a couple of years to the next mountain ledge to wave my flag from. Another day, another year, another birthday. My 75th. And I look forward with joy and anticipation to all the things I will know then that I don't know now.

So to my friend who is about to turn 50 I say "Welcome to a wider world."

DB - The Vagabond
Never Give Up


Geo. said...

Interesting subject. Shortly after I turned 50, I was attacked by a big young man in a parking lot. I deflected him only once and then twirled, ducked and dodged while unlocking my car and opening the door. Not a martial artist. Purposeful movement while avoiding others I learned dancing with Sufis. 10 years before, I would have been hurt. Hadn't thought of that for years.

Beth said...

I'm not sure if this is me you're talking about, but yes, I'll be 50 in about a month.

Although I've had recent thoughts of the fragility of life, they may be prompted as much by so many recent deaths in my family, or by another senseless shooting, as this "landmark" birthday.

I put it in quotation marks, because decade birthdays are always supposedly landmarks. I had people ask me if I felt different or even BAD when I turned 30...then when I turned 40...and I'm sure I'll get the same questions when I turn 50. They've never been landmarks in my mind, but apparently they are in everyone else's!

I'm enjoying myself. I'm feeling healthy, I'm exercising mentally AND physically, and I'm having fun. Life is good. Turning 50 isn't going to change any of that. It's a landmark in that it's a half a century, but that's about it for me. So bring on the second half! :)

Arlene (AJ) said...

What another great read with workds to touch all of us. I like to think that age doesn't matter as long as you enjoy yourself, life and strive for new possibilities every day. In my heart, I'll always be 18 and ready to get up and move forward to see what tomorrow brings.