A true sign of how fast the last year has moved came the other day when I realized that the birthday post I made here for my 46th birthday was, in fact, almost a year old. What does that say about how I interact with the world, I wonder, that I find my birthdays marked by blog posts and finding new ways to talk about getting older? Nothing good, I suspect.
This birthday, the one happening tomorrow, is my 47th. For some reason, I’m getting hung up on that number over the last week, as if it’s the number that puts me closer to 50 than “in my mid-40s,” in some magical fashion that is inescapable and somehow, inexplicably, meaningful: Once you hit 47, there’s no turning back…
The obvious flaw in this argument is, of course, the inherent scariness of being 50. In my head, I know that it’s really a relatively arbitrary number — what is that different about 50 than 40, or 30? Each of those felt like milestones at the time, as if they were ends of one era and the beginning of another. The reality, of course, turned out to be far more complicated, with personal eras starting and stopping at inopportune times and hitting numbers that haven’t been attached with any larger societally agreed-upon meaning. (I was going to prove my point by saying that I got divorced at 44, and then had a moment of, “Is 44 some magic number because of the repetition?”)
Nonetheless, 50 looms in the near future for me, the latest in a line of ages that make me feel as if I should have everything figured out and lined up by that point. I know, too, that that idea is a flawed one; that there’s no such thing as having everything figured out, because life is messy and throws all kinds of distractions and problems in your way just when the road ahead looks smooth. Still, the idea floats ahead of me, a promise so far unmet but maybe possible by some method I haven’t quite worked out yet. Maybe that’s still to come; I have three years, after all.