A few quiet thoughts about turning fifty. I never imagined I’d get here.
If the big 5-0 is one of those ultimate turning points in life, where profound insights magically appear and things “make sense,” it hasn’t felt that way to me. More like another hard-won step on the ladder.
Nobody who’s young imagines what fifty is supposed to feel like. My daughter, who is 5, overheard a conversation in the car the other day and screamed out “Wait! Dad…you’re 50!?” It was clear her developing brain couldn’t handle a number that large. Sometimes I wonder if I can handle a number that large!
We are all given multiple opportunities to succeed and to fail through our lives. I feel like so many of my life’
s failures—family problems, depressive periods, failed relationships, personal financial mismanagement, a stalled music career—were front loaded. They all seemed to come at once, early on. I was mostly in survival mode, chipping away at what I actually wanted to be.
Or maybe I was just living. Looking back, all those “problems” I described now look more like essential building blocks for getting to now. Those failed relationships led to finally meeting an amazing person and marrying her. That stalled career led to starting Nimble Fitness with my closest friend and watching it grow into something better than I could ever have imagined. And those family issues let to being blessed with two amazing kids.
So, if forty is the new twenty…what’s fifty like?
Age is such a personal and changeable reality. I have really vivid childhood memories of my father’s fortieth birthday party. Forty then was OLD, the beginning of the downhill slide. My father got old man gifts: a cane, a hideous toupee (he still has all his hair, FYI) an AARP membership card. With a life expectancy of seventy-two, forty really was downhill.
Our thoughts on aging, however, especially in the scientific and physical training communities, have had to change radically over time. Sports stars like Dara Torres became an Olympic silver medalist at age forty-one and Laird Hamilton is the world’s premier big wave surfer at age fifty-four, proving that age is not a barrier to accomplishment in any field. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, A.K.A. the Notorious RBG, still works fourteen hour days and exercises three times a week at eighty-five!
Many studies on aging have shown that it is losing the habitof regular exercise that causes our physical abilities and health to decline, not aging itself. In other words, if you keep consistent with all the good habits; if you exercise, move when you can, work hard, eat clean, relieve stress instead of holding on to it; all of these good things fight the aging process.
So really, what is fifty like?
Calmer, definitely. More focused, fewer distractions. Truly important things float to the surface and guide you-relationships, family, community, doing quality work, doing what you love-all of which make more room for purpose and gratitude to shine through.
The secret of course is that there is no secret.
Physically and spiritually I have figured out what works for me. And what doesn’t. All you need is right out there in front of you. And if there is stuff that gets in the way of all those good things, get rid of it.
It’s tempting to say I’ve lived my life backwards…but now it feels like it sorted out just the way it was supposed to. Along the way I’ve learned to stop fighting the universe. Just be grateful! That’s enough.