On Turning 60
Today is my birthday. I made it to age 60! Since we all want to live a long life, we should expect to turn 60 but somehow, we cringe at the idea of being that old. When I think of the many 60 year olds I have known during my life, it always seemed very old. Now that I have attained that ripe age, it seems pretty normal. I still think of myself as the young person I was in previous years even if the calendar and my very white beard tell me otherwise. The white beard isn’t definitive but the calendar doesn’t lie–1947 has always been my birth year and that year recedes farther and farther into history. (Jeezus, we didn’t even have television back then.) I can also look back and see a lot of personal history. It’s a fact: I’ve been around. Even more stark is the fact that I have much less time left in my life than has already past.
American culture makes a big deal about aging. We prefer youth; mid to late 20's seems to be the “ideal” age. After that, the images suggest decline and decay. I don’t think my generation is the first to long for perpetual youth but we Boomers seem to have made a fetish of it, starting with “don’t trust anyone over 30" and “redefining” the decades as we pass through them. Because we are such a demographic bulge and very affluent, society has catered to us, indulging our fantasies as long as we are willing to spend. But none of that changes the actuarial fact that we (including yours truly) are inching closer to “Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate”.
Maybe I’m just another Boomer seeking to think my way out of life’s inevitable trajectory, but I consider this birthday to be yet another beginning, the opportunity to continue living, learning and marveling at what the world has to offer. I certainly have no expectation of living a long life. I know all too well that I am alive by chance and it could end at any time, equally by chance. But I don’t know when my number will come up, so the best alternative is to make what I will of the time I have. For now that means packing and moving to Olympia, making new friends, keeping up with longtime friends and contributing in my own small way to making the world a better place for myself and others.
Birthdays are always good for reflection, which can be tricky since I often think of the many things I haven’t done or the times I’ve been disappointed. I see friends and colleagues who’ve served in public office, been prominent in their professions or have become longstanding members of their communities. As a teenager, I looked forward to running public office but those aspirations gave way to the security and comfort of a somewhat anonymous job as an adult. I succeeded in my profession but am not among its recognized leaders. And I’ve led a peripatetic life, moving from place to place in search of opportunity and adventure. I never spawned, so I will leave no genetic legacy to the world. There’s much that I’ve not done.
All that notwithstanding, I can’t complain. I’ve had an interesting life that has taken me over much of North America, to Europe and Asia and included some incredible adventures. Even better, I have enjoyed the companionship of many fine people who have become longtime friends. I am fortunate to share life with a wonderful woman and have been associated with five very fine dogs. Fame and fortune has not come my way but in many respects I’m a rich man. Not bad for 60 years.
I look forward to whatever time is left. Who knows what it will bring but I don’t think it will be at all disappointing.