by Mike Petrie
It's early afternoon and here I sit on the scenic sands of Laguna Beach, California. The sky is blue, as is the ocean. The beach itself is speckled with people, but not many. Not very crowded, it is a "work day" after all.
The sunlight glistens off each wave as it crests before pounding onto the shore. Until a few moments ago, I was among the Spartan surfers out there riding those waves - until cold and fatigue pulled me from the water, relegating me to mere observer. But even just watching is a pleasant enough activity; the scene seems to epitomize the phrase, "Just another day in paradise!" Laguna Beach looks every inch the California dream place the Beach Boys always sang about, and I feel as if I'm living the California dream just being here today.
So, here I sit, reclined in my beach chair, toes dug into the sand, writing this on my final day as a man in his forties. Tomorrow I will turn the dreaded Five-Oh! No longer will I be merely "middle aged." Tomorrow I will enter that stage of life commonly referred to as OLD! Fifty - the chronological demarcation that you are clearly on the downslope: Your life is MORE than half over. You are "over the hill," as they say, and cruising down the other side toward everyone's inevitable end . . . the great beyond!
Fifty seems to shout at me wherever I go these days: The commercial on TV and radio advertising a vitamin for active "older people." It goes, "Because you're over 50 and still exploring, there's a vitamin created especially for you!" Ugh! The Today Show health segment that airs each morning on TV (I never paid it any attention until recently) is called, "Forever Young . . . A Guide to Life After Fifty" (as if turning fifty requires some special guide). I recall an episode of the TV sitcom, Dharma & Greg about Greg's mother entering a beauty pageant for "older women aged 50 to 70." Never mind that I personally identify most with the nubile, youthful characters of Dharma & Greg rather than with Greg's mother (who, the show implied, was 50), but now I am to be lumped categorically by age with people who are 70? Oh my God!
Tomorrow I will cross over that age threshold into a land of old people! Okay, not truly "old people." Not people who are "elderly"; not people who hobble around using a walker to assist their feeble locomotion. But, clearly and undeniably, over that line . . . no longer in the "young" column. Oh Lord, FIFTY! And tomorrow it will happen . . . to me.
I know it is not at all uncommon to hear people ask, "Where did the time go?" But, I am asking it just the same. Where the hell did the time go? Certainly it was within the mere blink of an eye that I was a youthful, upwardly mobile professional . . . a YUPPIE! But no, that was actually a very long time ago . . . the 1980's. It seems like the blink of an eye . . . but, alas, only to all of us OLD PEOPLE! Not only are the 1980's long since over, we are now in an entirely new CENTURY!
Amazing! It doesn't seem all that long ago that I was hanging out with my friends, cruising for girls, partying, attending Rock concerts . . . but heck, that's all ancient history now! Strange. How very strange this concept of time passing . . . of aging. But aging, as the old saying goes, certainly beats the alternative.
And I can't (or at least shouldn't) complain about the years that have been spent. Good God, what a great time I've had! There certainly isn't much, if anything, that I would want to change. My generation was born into (and helped create) some of the most amazing decades of modern times. Okay, so we're not kids anymore, but must we succumb to the stigma of becoming old? I think not. We truly ARE "fifty and still exploring" as the TV commercial claims. Clearly we are beginning the next 50 years with a serious leg up compared to when our first 50 years began. The only advantage we had 50 years ago was youth & longevity. A serious downside was that we had to learn everything from scratch! We now have so many advantages over the "kids" that we once were: life experience, perhaps some money, and, hopefully, some wisdom - so many advantages that it might be considered a fair trade to relinquish some youth.
I don't think turning 50 is going to really bother me. I'm in a very good place at this stage of life and plan to continue growing from here. It's actually far more fun being a grown-up than it was to be a kid. A lot of us grown-ups loose sight of that, I think. It seems incorrect when someone refers to their teen years as, "In my day . . . ." Teen years were NOT my day, they were merely preparation for them. "In my day" is right now! Heck, THESE ARE "my days!"