He’s Coming. Are You Ready?
Thoughts on Turning 50
Fifty is an interesting milestone for all of us but has caused me to consider my mortality perhaps more than some, and I have good reason. My father had his first of three heart attacks at 50. The third, at 55, killed him.
I was only three years old and barely remember, so it’s not the traumatic loss for me you might assume. Even still, it’s there in the background and has moved more to the foreground as 50 approached.
Now let me stop you before you have time to interject some positive vibes. I know all that good stuff you might like to tell me about medical advances in the years since he died in the 1970s. I also know I’m not a smoker like he was, and I probably exercise more and follow a healthier diet; most of the time anyway.
I might like to counter by pointing out that I’ve led a life I wouldn’t always describe as conducive to the serenity that might promote longevity. Part of that is my own doing and some things just happen. In the mix are two divorces, a chronic illness I’ve lived with since my late thirties, numerous job changes and moves, and, foremost, the death of my daughter just shy of her sixth birthday.
I was purposely brief in describing these events. We all have our crap to deal with, and I’m driving toward a bigger point. Suffice it to say that when I looked in the mirror this morning, I wasn’t appalled at that 50-year-old face staring back at me, but I did see my share of lines and gray hair resulting from this life I’ve lived.
None of this makes me special. We all have our scars.
This thing I’m contemplating on my 50th birthday — mortality — doesn’t make me special either. Now I’m to the point I really want to make.
We’re all going to die.
That’s it? That’s your big point? Wow. The earth is round, too.
Yeah, but is it? And do you know you’re going to die?
I mean do you really know, like in an aware and acting accordingly sort of way?
It’s a hard truth no one can avoid, not even by hoping it’s far off in the distance. The Grim Reaper is coming with his sharpened scythe raised to take our heads off in one clean cut, we don’t know when he might appear, and there’s nothing any of us can do to stop his charge. Man, it sounds awful being on the other side of that, but I sure might like to try out being him for just one day!
A common theme in my writing revolves around keeping this sobering thought in mind at all times and using it as a driver to do the important things we need to do right now, while there’s still life left in us to do them. My blog post Gone really delves into this topic.
I practiced what I preach in some areas this past year and fell short in some others. Mainly due to my fiance’s initiative and planning, I took a couple of fabulous trips. In April, I visited Cyprus, Greece, and Egypt. In August, I saw the wonders of Machu Picchu.
Now I won’t have to depart this Earth wishing I’d seen those sites I talked about seeing for so many years. I actually got off my ass and did it, or maybe she pulled me off my ass. Sometimes we all could use a little nudge in the right direction.
I was straight up abysmal with my writing, however. I started the year with a bang, publishing three articles in January. One of them, 5 Lessons from Kids on how to Stop being So Damn Mean to Each Other, even had several thousand views.
Since that first bang-up month, I haven’t been nearly as productive. I did score a rare comedy hit in July with Instagram Influencer Shocked To Discover She Influences No One, but c’mon; that thing was under 600 measly words and doesn’t exactly turn the year around.
You can’t really call yourself much of a writer if you’re not writing consistently. It’s not about building a following, either. Sure, most who write want people to read it, as evidenced by my obsession with view counts, but that marketing stuff is tedious and couldn’t possibly get anyone except… I don’t know… maybe a marketer… out of bed in the morning.
It’s about creating a legacy. Now there’s a reason to get out of bed!
It’s definitely the reason I write or beat myself up when I don’t. I want to leave some small piece of me behind for folks to find when I’m gone.
I wrote Inside the Mind of an Iron Icon so people who are interested in real strength training would have one more piece of good advice in the sea of mostly lousy information. Maybe some kid will stumble on a tattered copy of it 50 years from now and get on a path to making some progress.
I definitely wrote Will Little Roo Ever…? to create a legacy, not just for me but also for my daughter. People will read about that little girl struggling to overcome each developmental milestone, and Roo’s fighting spirit will live on through those words. I did get that out this year, too. I’m just reluctant to count it, because I really wrote it ages ago and just had to slog through the mundane details of publishing it.
Someone else won’t be able to find your passions for you. You’ll have to identify them for yourself. I’m lucky enough just to have carved out a little time to find and develop my own interests in this rat race of existing day to day.
Discovering the things that make us tick usually isn’t too hard, though. They kind of find us. When I hit on lifting as a kid, writing more extensively in my forties, and now seeing the world in my decrepit geezer years, they jumped up and grabbed me and took hold. I couldn’t have ignored them if I’d wanted. I was, and am, consumed by them.
So you probably already know what your passions are. Maybe you just let life get in the way of really pursuing them, kind of like I did at times this past year with writing.
Perhaps you’re good with your hands and you want to build something special. Great, do that. Maybe your kids are your passion. If you have kids, they damned sure should be, but that’s a topic for another day. Maybe you’re a green thumb gardener, so get out there and plant the best damned garden you can plant and then pass all that knowledge you acquire with your hands in the dirt on to someone else who also loves gardening.
The thing itself doesn’t matter. Going after it does, because whatever it is, it’s your legacy and you’re in a race against the Reaper to create it before he can get to you and end you.
Whatever I write next… that’ll be about adding something to my legacy, too. Even this piece was about that. Especially this piece.
The Reaper isn’t scary to me at 50. He’s simply a constant reminder to work on creating that legacy right now — before I answer emails and texts, before I change the laundry, and most of all, before it’s too late.
The scary thing for me would be ignoring him, pretending he’s not coming. Because he is. Maybe soon.