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On Getting Older

Thursday, I turned 49 years old. Once upon a time, that seemed to be something to be dreaded but was in fact inevitable. Of late, I’ve had pause to reflect upon the milestone.

In another year I’ll be the big Five-Oh. There’s a big difference as anyone will tell you between 49 and 50, as there is between 29 and 30, 39 and 40. It’s not a physical difference so much as a psychological one. 50 is a milestone, a half century of life. 49 is the last of the 40s, a move further into middle age.

Age is not what it used to be. When I was a boy, 49 was getting near to decrepitude. It was on the downhill slide of life, firmly in the middle of heart attack country. It was a time to begin preparing for death instead of living one’s life.

Of course, now that I’m here I can see that’s all horse manure. 49 in 1969 was a different proposition than 49 in 2009. We know more about taking better care of ourselves, so we are more active, sharper mentally and living more fully than those hitting that milestone a mere 40 years ago. At least, we have the option to – not all of us take the best care of ourselves possible.

If I were to die tomorrow (God forbid), I’m sure the most common comment would be “But he was so young!” 49 is too young to die. But is it, as Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull opined, too old to rock and roll? Well, I’m here to tell you not in the least. Part of what keeps me young at heart is listening to music that people 20 years younger than I find to be cutting edge.

That’s the key, I think, to any age. As people get older, we tend to live more in the past and resist change more. We cling to what’s familiar and reject that which is new. People in that mode tend to stagnate. I believe (although there’s probably no empirical proof on the subject) that these people actually age more rapidly than those who embrace change.

Change and exploration keep our minds and bodies active. There is so much of this world left to explore. Da Queen and I plan on going to China for my 50th birthday. We expect to visit our friends in Europe – of which we have many – sometime in the next few years. Heck, we hope even to make it to Australia by the middle of the decade. I could spend the next hundred years traveling and not see everything I want to see nor experience all the cultures and places I would like.

I also have a passion for learning that both my parents possess, particularly my mom. I’m fascinated by all the new technologies that are coming out or are on the horizon. I love the fact that we are learning more about science, medicine and engineering. I look forward to exploring new worlds – the oceans beneath us, the mind and body within us, the stars above us. I have high hopes of living long enough to see a permanent human settlement on the Moon and astronauts hoofing it on Mars. My dad, had he lived to see the world of 2009, would have been glued to the Science and Discovery Channels. I can only imagine the conversations we’d have had about some of the technologies that are being developed.

As much as I look forward to the future, I’m not actually looking forward to aging. Not so much the grey hair and wrinkles – I don’t have the vanity to care about such things. I’m talking about all the aches and pains of joints having been used for too long, organs beginning to slow down and fail, senses becoming less sensitive. I’m not saying I want to be old. I’m just saying it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

For awhile in my 40s I would fudge a little on my age when meeting new friends on AOL (which, as I understand it was not an unusual thing) but these days, I don’t mind proclaiming my 49-ness to all and sundry. I’m glad I’ve made it this far – not everybody gets to. If something were to happen to me, I’ve done and seen a lot of things in my life that have made me a better person, not a bad epitaph to leave behind. There’s certainly much more I’d like to do, but I’m okay with who I am and where I am at 49. Would I change things? Sure, who wouldn’t? Still, I’m pretty content with the way things are. To a certain extent, I’ve found serenity which took me a hell of a long time to discover. It’s always in the last place you look though.

There really is no need to fear age. While I get that with each year we are moving closer to our own mortality, the trick is not to dwell on it. Rather, enjoy your year. Make each year the best ever, and then try to top it the following year. In the next calendar year, I hope to go to China and Expo 2010, attend the Toronto Film Festival, visit relatives and friends elsewhere in the country, get my blogs read by a wider audience (Hey, tell a friend!) and take care of a few projects around the house (we did some big ones this year). I have a lot to look forward to – and hopefully, all of you will come along for the ride.

While I can’t honestly say I look forward to being 50, I’m not afraid of it. Turning 49 was kind of cool, actually (largely due to my wonderful wife and life partner who made it special). I enjoyed all the birthday messages on Facebook, calls from family and friends and general attention (I will admit to being a bit of an attention whore). I know people who don’t like to be reminded of birthdays; I honestly don’t mind it; after all, birthdays come whether we want them to or not. It’s what we do with the years that follow is what counts.


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