Over the weekend I turned 50, and I didn’t get time to read the blog, there were so many “happenings,” starting with my colleagues redecorating my office in black on Friday, through last night’s barbecue blowout where we ate a lot, drank a lot and two people were smart enough to give me bottles of high-class gin for presents.
I’m somewhat amused by the whole uproar about birthdays that end in zero. It’s one of those cultural rituals that are supposed to mark some “passage,” in the case of 50, apparently the beginning of a long downhill slide. Aside from this morning’s mild hangover, I don’t feel that way at all. It’s funny that when I was 25 I remember thinking 50-year-old dudes were probably creaking in all their joints and wouldn’t be much good in a fight, but here I am and I know I would do fine–just wouldn’t want to go 15 rounds.
It amuses me how many adults, some a lot younger than 50, can’t seem to remember the way things looked when they were a kid. As the rest of the 50ish bloggers here no doubt do remember, we started school in a time of nuclear attack drills, weren’t young enough to make fools of ourselves at Woodstock but tried hard to match it in the 70s, and became adults somewhere in the decade of Watergate, the Carter malaise and the Great Recession of 1981-82. I didn’t vote for Reagan in ’80 because I was a dope-smoking Libertarian, but by ’84 I saw the light, quit smoking everything except an occasional cigar later in the decade, and finally began to do something effective in politics in the ’90s. The point is, I remember that first we were probably going to die in a nuclear war, then we were going to have an economic collapse, then we did have a recession just as bad as the one now (though shorter), then the Soviets gave up the quest for World Domination and everything was gonna be just ginger peachy, then the bastards bombed the World Trade Center the first time and Clinton’s ATF started killing people over firearms registration violations. I was very aware of Islamic terrorism and the potential of our own government toward tyranny after that. But I also discovered that as much as I loathed Bill Clinton, he was temporary, and temporized by a Republican congress after ’94.
As I grew older through all this I finally realized the great truth that there will always be conflict, alarms and disasters in this world. There is no permanent peace, no true security beyond at least having a weapon at hand to fight with, no cure for all that ails mankind. Curiously, I found that this revelation is what truly brings lasting peace of mind. I was brought up thinking some major shitstorm was going to come in my lifetime, and now that I’m”old” I have no more anxiety about it. It’ll come, or not, people will cope as best they can and life will go on, until it doesn’t. I can’t change that, I can only change myself.
I may be 50 but I can still shoot straight. I have a five-year-old son and this summer I’m teaching him to shoot, and fish, and that when kindergarten starts no one is allowed to lay hands on him and push him around, no matter what teacher says. I even have this pleasant fantasy that maybe he’ll be a better man than I.
I may be 50 and I don’t feel a damn bit different than last week. I’m more future-oriented than ever. Let’s get the hell on with it.