Tomorrow is my birthday. Today is the last day of my fifties. Happy Sixties Eve to me.
I sure didn’t skate through my fifties. I fell in love, got married, published a book, released an album, and recorded a soundtrack. I learned to ride a unicycle, juggle wooden pins, play the bass guitar, and pick a lock.
That sets the bar a little high for my upcoming sixties. Is that why I’m feeling apprehensive?
None of the other decades bugged me. I’ve always felt younger than my age, although I’m sure everyone feels that way. I read once that 90% of people at their high school reunions think, “Wow, everyone else looks so much older than me!”
I was kind of shy in my teens, and was happy to graduate and strike out on my own. I was independent for about a week, when I met my then-soon-to-be-wife. While everyone else was living the college life and sowing oats, I had twins and dove headfirst into parenting.
Divorced before the decade ended, I hit my thirties with gratitude. A fresh start, new life, a whole new way of liking myself. I joined a band, wrote songs, earned a black belt — all the stuff I should have done in my twenties, maybe — but it worked out better this way. I started my own business. While my friends were lamenting leaving their twenties, I was wiping my brow in relief.
It just got better. My forties built upon the successes and inspirations of my thirties. I had a little money to do fun stuff. My kids were grown and becoming independent. Getting older was fun! I sold my business, opened a music venue, felt like a somebody.
And I already told you about my fifties. [ happy sigh ] I met the love of my life. It changed everything.
We just watched Free Solo, a documentary about Alex Honnold, who climbed 3000 feet up the face of El Capitan without a rope or tools. Just fingernails and grit. At one point, when asked how his girlfriend felt about all his death-defying, he replied, “Well, I could be all cozy and happy, but then I’d never do anything.”
“Except be cozy and happy!” I hollered at the TV. That’s something a lot of people would like to do.
I remember being questioned at some point during an argument in my first marriage: “What do you want to do?”
“Be happy,” I replied. “I just want to be happy.”
“Happy?” she mocked. “Happy?!” It turned into a shriek. I immediately felt embarrassed and defensive. But even then I thought, Being happy is what I want to do.
All the careers and hobbies and accomplishments are steps to get there, not ends in themselves. And in my life each step has been measured against, Will I be happier if I do this? My beloved little sister and I quiz each other during difficult decisions: “When you’re ninety and you look back, will you be glad you did this?”
Maybe instead of wondering what I’ll accomplish in my sixties, I’ll focus on nurturing what I have: happiness. It only took me fifty years to get there.