Today I turn 52 years old. I am not making a big deal of the day in my real life, because well, when you’re this old, what’s another birthday but a step closer to the grave? (We’ll get to that matter shortly.)
Due to a misspelling on my Ohio driver’s license, I recently had to order a copy of my official birth certificate from the State of Wisconsin. My Certificate of Live Birth lists my parents’ ages as 22. It is difficult for me to imagine either of them as twenty-two today. For that matter, it’s not so easy to imagine myself as twenty-two.
Not that I have much to complain about, mind you. During my teen years, I developed a habit of moderate diet and daily exercise, and I’ve stuck with it. I’m not going to say that I feel like a 19-year-old. I don’t. But I don’t feel much different than I did when I was in my thirties. That’s something.
Of course, I’m also at that age where seemingly healthy men drop dead, out of the blue, from heart attacks. I’ve known several 50-something men who did just that. Once you reach the half-century mark, you really could go at any time.
Fifty is a special milestone in that regard, perhaps. But every birthday much beyond 40 carries with it a realization: You’re on the downhill run now. You’ve reached and surpassed the halfway point. There is more time in the rearview mirror than there is in the windshield.
This means being more deliberate about the choices you make, about how you spend your time. I have a good autobiographical memory. I remember being very young, under the age of 21. I can even remember my years from ten to fifteen with surprisingly clarity.
In those days, I often looked at adulthood as some distant, golden point on the far horizon. Now I wouldn’t mind being 10 again. (But I would want to be 10 in my own times, in my own life. I wouldn’t want to be someone else—and certainly not a random 10-year-old in 2020.)
I realize that it’s vaguely possible that fifty-two years from now, I could be seeing out the last of my days at the age of 104. Frankly, I hope not. As I note elsewhere in this blog, I’m a man of the last century, not this one. I’ll cope with the twenty-first century as I must; but I have no desire to live beyond its midway point.
Every human life has its limit. This is a universal that the atheist and the believer must both come to terms with. Likewise, every person (in my way of thinking, anyway) has their times. Just as I have no desire to be alive one hundred years ago, I have no desire to be alive one hundred years from now.
On this point, I’ve been fairly consistent over the years. I’m a nostalgic, not a futurist. The idea of making it into the record books for my longevity has never been a prospect that much appealed to me. I would rather make the most of a reasonably long—though reasonably limited—span of time.