Yesterday I turned 50. I’ve been thinking about it for months.
Not in a good or a bad way, just in a profound way: What does it mean? When I turned 40, the theme was, “it’s the new 30, just a number!”. The last big birthday milestone for me was 21, the age of legality and adulthood.
Our society makes a big deal out of turning 50, punctuated by my receipt of my inagural edition of AARP’s magazine with my name emblazoned on the address label. Others I know have wrung their hands or shrugged their shoulders at turning 50. Everyone has a different POV about it, largely influenced by circumstances.
For me, turning 50 was a milestone, but not necessarily the last one. My thoughts crystalized over the weekend at a hot dog stand in Studio City, where I stopped for a guilty pleasure lunch. First: I got a polish with sauerkraut instead of a chil-cheese dog (my all time fave). That symbolized my sort-of-recent focus on eating and living healthy. I can still have fun, I realized, it just needs to be thoughtful.
As you get older, you realize you are not invincible and lifestyle decisions have real consequences. I went to the doctor with a cold last week, and she reminded me to have annual blood work, especially to check my blood sugar. “Diabetes will cost you 10 years of your life,” she repeated to me. Wow, 10 years is a long time, I thought. I contemplated all the live I lived between September 11, 2011 and today. It was a life’s worth of challenges, opportunities and thrilling adventures. Wouln’t trade that for anything. So, I’m going to live healthy, to live longer.
Second, I noticed an octo-generian with her grandkids, huffing and puffing to keep up with them. She fawned over them like it was the last time she’d ever see them. In that observation, my second thought emerged: You are not getting older, just closer to the end of your story.
Everyone of us lives a story. It has a beginning, a very long middle and an end…sometimes sudden and short. We are the producer, director and protagonist of it. Sometimes the antagonist too. I’ve been thinking about my story, my significance, that I’m trying to tell with my words and deeds. It’s a Love Story, that’s for sure – my relationship with the world based on my belief that people are good and shouldn’t suffer unecessarily.
As I get closer to the end of my story, I become more attuned to the feedback loop that informs me as to whether I’m giving, using or taking in my day-to-day life. 50 isn’t the end, but by all accounts, it’s the clear beginning of my life’s Second Half (or 2nd Act). So, wishful intentions are not enough. I need to contribute in a meaningful way I can measure, iterate on and improve on until the day I die.
And so 50, then, is a milestone that means this to me: Live long and (help others) Prosper.