Wednesday, January 13, 2010


55 is a strange age.

For one thing, you aren't young anymore, but you aren't really old. A little over 15 years ago I was still in my 30s. A little more than 15 years from now, God willing, I will be in my 70s.

I have no idea what it feels like to be 70, but 55 really doesn't feel very different from 35. Except when my ophthalmologist suggests that I need to start looking at trifocals. Or I look down at my waist. Of course, I can do something about the latter problem, and I plan to. Starting next month. Maybe.

For one thing, my generation's 55 somehow doesn't seem as old as my parents' 55. Checking out my Facebook friends, for example, a lot of people my age look pretty much the way I remember them from college. And when I was young, I presumed that by this point in my life I'd be married to (and still in love with) some white-haired old lady. Instead, I'm married to a 61-year-old who still looks like Shakira. Lucky me.

For another thing, there is something to that whole wisdom thing. When you've been through the same experiences enough times in your life, you get used to them. When I got that first dent on my brand-new 1979 Mercury, it felt like a disaster. A few months ago, when a high-speed collision with a deer smashed up my new Volkswagen, I realized that I could care less about cars - just very sorry for the poor deer and very thankful for walking away in one piece.

The same logic applies to lots of other life experiences. I like to think that I wake up every morning feeling the same way I did when I was young, but in reality it's a different me that opens up a large utility bill or waits on an hour-long line for airport security. But I still react the same way to a beautiful sunset or freshly baked biscuits.

Best of all, no one cares what I'm doing with my life anymore. I am in the twilight of my career. Which means I can do whatever I feel like doing nowadays.

For example, some kids grow up wanting to be a fireman. I always wanted to be a psychotherapist. I even had a dual major in engineering and psychology at Cornell. But I succumbed to the lure of a booming technical job market in the 70s and 80s, and never could figure out a way to tell my family and friends - or my mortgage - that I really wanted to stroke my chin and say, "Tell me how you feel about that ..." Now, thanks to the magic of being 55 - and three years of grad school - I've starting practicing this year as a real shrink under supervision.

Of course, I'll still speak, train, and write for people, just like I always have. Because I like doing those things too. And that's the point. No one cares. And if I want to be a fireman next year, by golly, I'll do that too.

All told, if I had known what things would be like, I would have turned 55 a long time ago.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

A beautiful thought,beautifully written. You almost make me want to be 55 today - almost, but not quite.
Michelle Nichols, on my 50th b-day