When I turned 49, I set myself a list of all the things I wanted to achieve before I turned 50. I was going to learn a language, acquire the body of an athlete, adopt a whole new joie de vivre kind of mind set and get to grips with technology. It’s a good job I have seventeen days left because so far I haven’t done any of them and, if I don’t get a move on, I could well be entering my next decade as a big fat failure.
Actually part of me has already embraced being 50. It has been a slow burning shift throughout the year and I am pretty much owning being an old fogey and, what’s more, I like it. It’s extremely liberating and, let’s face it, the fact that I am still alive and kicking, in good health and spirits should be cause enough for celebration in itself. I did a little quiz on the BBC website earlier today to determine my body mass index and I was informed that I have the same body mass as someone from Mali. I am not sure what the point of the quiz was and, I suppose it would have been quite funny, had it not also stated that the life expectancy of a woman from Mali is 49. It is a sobering realisation and, in light of that, to not feel joy at being alive and healthy seems rather obscene.
My failed targets aside, I don’t think I’m doing too badly. At a time when lots of people are in financial straits, I am financially solvent and combining sporadic bursts of employment with pursuing my writing is working out well. My family and friends are all doing okay and life is pretty good. In fact, it’s more than pretty good, it’s bloody well fantastic.
I can also take comfort from the fact that, even though I am about to step over the threshold into decrepitude, I am still younger than George Clooney, Patti Smith, Morrissey, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Springsteen and a whole host of others, all of whom are still kicking ass in their respective fields.
I hate all those clichés about how life begins at whatever and you are only as young as you feel but, as you get older, you do start to see age as little more than a number. I don’t feel any different now than I did at 25 and I am guessing I’ll still be the same
person at 75. Quality of life is dependent upon opportunities and health. I thank God that I was fortunate enough to have parents who set me on a path to education which is the golden ticket for anything you may wish to do in life. Health, I suspect, is more of a lottery but so far so good.
The strange thing about age is, when I think back to my mother turning 40 and 50, her life already seemed to be more or less set in stone; she seemed old. The opportunities afforded to her were few and far between which is why I am not going to squander mine by worrying about a number. I owe it to her and all those other women of her generation and beyond, who were never allowed to realise their potential, to make sure that I don’t give up on mine.
I’ve still got seventeen days left though and I am going to use them well. Okay, maybe I’m not going to have time to learn that language or hone my body into a finely tuned machine but I am going to make sure that every second counts.
Having said that, when the big day arrives, I plan to spend it quietly with lots of reflection and minimal fuss. And I swear to God, if anybody sends me a card with 50 emblazoned all over it, I will track them down and kill them.