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I am astonished that at my age I’ve remarried and am about to leave my longtime home to share a life with family I never knew I would have.

When I was younger, even through my late 30s, those who had lived a half century seemed so settled to me. Their lives, I was sure, had fallen into predictable grooves. I like predictability, and those I knew who had it wore it well. I looked forward to it in my own life.

On this day half my life ago

But who knew all of the adventures of the half-century mark? Of helping children step into their adult futures. Of having fully adult relationships with our parents. Of hitting our stride in our careers. And, given that so many divorce now, remarriage and new family.

Except that these things feel like adventures only when they’re going well. Some children stumble and fall, or even fail to launch. Our parents are aging — when is it time to stop driving? To find a retirement home? And on the job sometimes you watch someone younger than some of your children, with all the life experience that implies, move up fast and pass you by, and make mistakes you learned long ago not to make.

This stuff is incredibly hard! The blessing of this age is the resilience to handle these difficulties. If I had encountered them at half this age I would have needed a rubber room.

I turn 50 today. Joys and disappointments abound. Honestly, this year there have been more disappointments than joys. My wife and I have experienced some real difficulty with children, parents, and jobs. Point is, this age teaches that this is what life is. That youthful dreams of winning at life, of being a Master of the Universe, were never within reach. That all there is every day is enjoying the good while working through the bad. That God put people into our lives to love, and our best satisfaction in life comes from loving them with all our might.

I’m gathering my whole family at my home this afternoon. We’ll grill various bits of animal flesh, nosh on fresh veggies and sweets, drink gin and tonic, and just enjoy each other. My goodness, but do we like each other. I predict I’ll reach the end of this day satisfied.

I made this photograph when I was 42, and thought even as I made it that I ought to use it on this blog when I turned 50! It seemed so far off in the future that I wondered if I’d still be blogging then. Answer to my then-self: lol yup.

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Life

Half century

Who knew life at 50 could have so much going on? And some of it isn’t exactly pleasant. But one advantage of this age is the resilience to handle it.

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Growth, Life

49

My hair is thinning on top. I wondered if this would ever happen. It started happening to my dad when he was in his late 30s, and he tells me his dad went bald in his 20s. Now it’s my turn. I’m glad I’m tall, or everybody’d be able to see through to my scalp. My eyebrows are thinning, too; my height doesn’t mask that. At least you have to look really hard to notice my gray hairs. They don’t show up at all in this photograph!

49

I can no longer deny that I need reading glasses, but I forget to carry them most of the time and so look at my phone at arm’s length.

My new normal weight, the one my body defaults to when I don’t overeat, is 10 pounds more than it was 10 years ago.

And I tire more easily now. My athletic friends have complained about loss of ability and stamina since their early 30s. An advantage of being mostly sedentary is that there’s a lot less to lose, and you lose it a lot later.

I’m lucky: I’ve aged physically a lot more slowly than most of my age peers. Yet each of these changes in my body has come with some feelings of resistance and loss, and has taken effort to accept.

I decided a long time ago not to fight physical aging. I’m not going to resort to Rogaine or hair dye, and certainly not cosmetic surgery (tempting as it may be as I really hate how my right eyelid has gone droopy). A little more exercise would do me good, though.

But no regrets, because I’m happy and content now. That wasn’t always true when I was twentysomething and thirtysomething. I say it every year at this time: you couldn’t pay me enough to go back.

Happy 49th birthday to me!

 

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Life

48

IMG_3835 proc smI turn 48 today.

I’ve known many people who wring their hands over the birthdays that end in zero. They’re milestones of getting old, after all. But none of them have bothered me so far — certainly not 20, but also not 30, not 40.

Some odd birthdays have troubled me unexpectedly. 33 was tough. I felt I couldn’t avoid anymore that I was firmly in my adult years. I wasn’t sure I always liked it.

Last year’s birthday, 47, hit me hard too. To my surprise, because my middle years have been the best of my life. But where 46 was “middle aged,” 47 felt like “pushing 50,” and something about 50 feels more old than middle aged. I’m sure that if you’re significantly older than 50, you’re chuckling over that statement. But it got me down for a bit.

I’m good with it now. And if 47 is “pushing 50,” 48 is on the downhill slide, hurtling headlong, picking up speed. Look out, I’m throwing in the clutch.

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Growth, Life

47

47I turned 47 yesterday.

I’ve loved my 40s. They’ve been the happiest years of my life and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

That’s not to say I’m a happy person. My natural happiness set point is on the low side and I have a melancholic temperament. I tend to experience deeply the things in the present that aren’t as I’d have them. I find joy to be fleeting and often difficult to embrace.

But when I look back, I see the bigger picture: I’ve had a great run in my fifth decade. I’ve achieved emotional health. I’ve done really well in my career. I have developed hobbies that make my heart sing. I have built strong personal relationships, especially with my sons.

And I am optimistic for the future. Sure, I can see how my body is aging and my health is different now. I’m seeing younger people coming up fast in my career – I’m starting to work for people who were in diapers when I entered college. My prime is ending. But I expect to adapt and keep growing in maturity. I expect to find that to be supremely satisfying.

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Life

46

46When I was on the cusp of 40, the mother of an old friend told me that her 40s were her favorite years. “I had good health as when I was younger,” she said, “but my career had hit its stride and so I finally had the money to enjoy it.”

I’m 46 today, which places me well into the back half of my middle decade, It turns out that my friend’s mom was right. But more than that, my 40s have brought maturity and peace. I wouldn’t trade those for one minute of being twentysomething again. Bring on the graying temples.

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Life

Halfway to 90

When I was in my 20s I used to look at the older guys at work – the guys in their 40s, with their receding hairlines and expanding waistlines – and shudder, and try not to think about my eventual fate.

Yesterday was my 45th birthday. Fate has a way of catching up with you.

Except that I like being this age. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to my 20s – you couldn’t drag me back there kicking and screaming.

It doesn’t hurt that somehow I still have all of my hair and that I weigh only about ten pounds more (and my friends tell me I was too skinny in those days). But more than that, I have the maturity and wisdom to handle challenges that baffled me 20 years ago. I am much more peaceful and content.

2009 Rose-Hulman bonfire

My former metabolism

That’s not to say 45 is all wine and roses. I have bigger problems now than I did in my 20s, mostly because I chose to have children. (Bless their little hearts.) Providing for them and making sure they’re well and loved has challenged me in ways I never could have imagined, even if you had told me.

My body has changed, too. I used to have a blast-furnace metabolism. I know I was unusually blessed, but I really could eat pretty much anything I wanted in any quantity with no consequences. No more! If I don’t limit my intake, soon I can’t button my pants. Also, the foods I choose now have a direct and often immediate effect on how good I feel. So my diet has shifted from pizza and cheeseburgers to fish and chicken, fruits and vegetables.

I can’t run as hard and as long as I did then, either. I used to stay out with friends until 2 am, sleep a few hours, get to work by 8 am, and have plenty of energy for the day. Now I turn into a pumpkin at 10 pm and if I don’t get at least six hours of sleep, preferably seven or eight, I’m a zombie.

But I find the tradeoffs to be more than fair. So far, my 40s have been my best decade so far.

A few recent college graduates just joined the company where I work. I’ve been working longer than they’ve been alive! But if my experience is typical, their best is two decades ahead of them.

This may be my best decade, but the pinnacle of my career
happened when I was in my 30s. Read that story

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