I just turned 50.
Age was never something that shook me. Maybe when I was younger I would think about being 50 and wonder how anyone can be that old and still mean something. I think I was pretty dumb.
As far as milestone ages go this is one. The mid-century mark used to be a miracle age and you entered into your golden age. It wasn’t too long ago that turning 50 made you a marvel of science. It meant you didn’t get stomped by an elephant or drafted and killed in a world war or shipped off to Vietnam. It meant you were one step closer to the blue light special, dinner by 5pm, free tuition and skiing. It meant your best days were behind you.
Something has changed. Or maybe my perspective has changed. Either way, something has changed. 50 year olds are no longer wetting their pants and waiting for death. At least this 50-year old isn’t.
I was born in 1970 on the same day as the Kent State killings — the subject of CSNY’s Ohio. The moon was inhabited, the war in Vietnam was raging and disco was about to kill rock and roll forever. My childhood and youth were unremarkable but there are key things that stick out when I take a moment to think back.
There were big things like when my younger brother stopped breathing in the middle of the night and my parents “knew” something was wrong. I didn’t understand how, neither did they but they did and because of that “parental ESP” he was fine. Then there was that time my youngest brother developed Meningitis when he was a year old and spent weeks recovering in hospital. All but his hearing recovered.
Discovering the Montreal Expos and listening to the play by play by Duke Snider and Dave Van Horn as I fell asleep every night led to a 40 year baseball obsession. I remember how terrible of a student I was. I remember glueing my grade 5 teacher to her seat. I remember being afraid of our gym teacher in grade 7 and 8. I also remember my parents sitting with us as we watched the movie “The Day After” and realizing the world may not be a great place right now.
The assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan and the space shuttle Challenger exploding on liftoff stuck with me. I stayed home to watch all the shuttle launches — did that until the shuttle was retired 10 years ago. Watching humans launch themselves on top of a missile is still one of my favourite things to do. Crazy and inspiring.
This is where I first met Bruce Springsteen and we started a 40 year friendship that I’ve been able to share with my kids. I guess I preached Springsteen enough in my youth that it stuck with my friends. I’m pretty sure that when they hear Springsteen played or mentioned anywhere at any time, they think of me. That wasn’t the plan but I’m fine with it. My kids will suffer the same outcome.
The rest of the eighties were centred around high school and my mother moving to Bangladesh with my brothers. This exposed me to the most incredible parts of the world as we travelled around south east Asia for months. It was that exposure that would open my eyes to the greater world and take me on my own travels after high school to see the world solo. Touching down in India and eventually flying home from Indonesia hitting every country and beach in between.
I never took a traditional path to find work. I was always too lazy to go through the long process of university and work my way up. I needed something that would grab my attention and that I could control. So I chose the faster, less stressful world of self employment. The entrepreneurship disease. When I got back from traveling I started my first of many companies. I quickly realized that being an entrepreneur was not the easier, nor the fastest and certainly not the less stressful way to make a living. Kids, go to school and become a lawyer.
Starting a business is what has defined me since my early 20’s to this day. I think my perspective on this age is a result of having to be a life long learner in order to keep up with the pace of the world. I read 60 books a year and am always consuming and learning. I think I’m trying to make up for lost time when I didn’t read or care about education early in my life.
There are, of course, seminal moments that stand out for me over the first 50. I remember the friends that have helped shape me over the years. We don’t see each other often but I know they are part of my DNA and I am in theirs. I found and married my partner for life. She is a patient patient woman who has brought me into a different world and given me a family that makes me ache with love. She is the only companion that makes this journey worthwhile. I’m a better man because and for her.
Life hasn’t been easy but I don’t think it’s meant to be. My mother was someone hard to lose because of what she meant to her kids, her grandkids and her community. You don’t recover from losing your mother. One of my sons brought us to our knees, bent us, but his spirit and attitude and fight and some remarkable neurosurgery brought him back in full to us.
There have been successes and failures along the way. Jobs come and go, money comes and goes. I have learned to use a hammer and saw, to build with my hands at the same time as I build with my head. I am fit and have developed routines to keep me that way for as long as I possibly can.
Who knows what the next half century will look like but I’m stepping into it today — the first day of my next 50 years — and I feel great.