Monday, April 25, 2011

What if 50 is only halfway?

This year I will celebrate or hide from my 50th birthday by running away to Paris with my mom. There is something intimidating about 50: a paradoxical sense of hope and dread as you imagine all that you will never do and wonder whether to push harder or simply let what you already know pull you along like a current. You might feel - I often feel - stronger and smarter and more resilient than ever before. You might feel - I often feel - that it's too late, that too many people have accomplished so much more. It seems just a little late for starting something new.

And yet - I took a silly quiz online today that promised to calibrate my life expectancy. And the result was 99 years! If the silly quiz is right, I am just halfway. Halfway is still somewhat terrifying, but is also just halfway, in the middle of the journey, half-baked. Yes, there are lots of days I feel half-baked.

So as I approach my 50th birthday, I am contemplating what it means to be so far from the edges that you can no longer see either shore, the beginning and the ending both too far for accurate perception. I am thinking about what it means to be resilient and intentional and passionate in the absence of clear indications that you are moving in the right direction, or how close or far you are from your destination. We live in a world where long-term plans last less than 5 years. We are always grabbing at signposts that promise we are on the right path. What can we learn by knowing that those signposts are not reliable indications of anything except the moment in which we encounter them?

When I was very young, I was intrigued by artists who lived long lives and were creative until the very last moment. I wonder how I knew I would need that. I wonder how I knew that I would have to live with all the hope and terror of "I am just beginning."

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