NOTE: When you think you’ve gotten to the end of this post, read on. It is a little different than my usual posts, as will become clear once you progress past the end. Think of it like those scenes that popup in motion pictures after the credits have rolled.
When I was about five years old, I remember laying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, and thinking how old fifty sounded. My grandfather was in his fifties at the time and he was even older than my parents! One clear thought I had then that has stuck with me ever since was this: When I turn fifty, I should remember the day when I was five years old, laying here in bed, thinking about what it would be like to be fifty. Remember that I was once five, even though I am old now.
Today, I turn fifty, and my first thoughts are with that boy, one-tenth my age, who so worried about what it would be like to be fifty and old. That five year-old still lives somewhere inside me, and what I would say to him today is: fifty doesn’t seem that old. Sometimes, I still feel like I am five.
Fifty years seems an odd milestone for people to celebrate. I think of milestones that have some practical value: at sixteen one can obtain a driver’s license; at eighteen one can vote in the United States. At 21 one can buy alcohol. At 25 one can serve in the House and at 30 one can serve in the Senate. At 35, if one was daring enough, one can become President. At 59-1/2 one can begin withdrawing from retirement savings like 401(k)s. These are practical ages to mark as milestones.
The half-century milestone is not. For most of human history, few people lived to be fifty. In psalm 90:10 the Bible proclaims that “the days of our years are threescore and ten” as if seventy years is the utmost maximum one can expect. Indeed, the subsequent passage seems to indicate that anything beyond this just isn’t worth the effort: “and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away1.” No mention of fifty is made anywhere, except in greeting cards.
You have have to be 62 (or maybe 65, I can’t quite tell) for the dubious title of “senior citizen.” I call this dubious because it has become synonymous with “old folks” rather than experienced, wise folks.
Centenarians–those few who reach the 100 year mark–have a milestone worth celebrating. That is quite the achievement, and is frequently recognized by a letter from the President of the United States. At this moment, I’d have to live an entire lifetime (another 50 years) to reach that impressive mark.
On the off-chance that I make it that far, when I go to bed tonight, I will stare at the ceiling in the darkness, and think to myself, When I turn one hundred, I should remember the day when I was fifty, laying here in bed, thinking about what it would be like to be one hundred–remember that I was once fifty, even though I am old now.
If I am still able to write here on the blog fifty years hence, you can rest assured I’ll remind you all of this.
Written on March 16, 2022.
But wait! There’s more! After all, this is my birthday! You see, I am not particularly comfortable with my birthday, and I seem to grow increasingly less comfortable with it as I get older. The result is that I have written several drafts of this post. The one you just read was the final and most recent. But I thought I might use this day and this post as an opportunity to pull back the curtain a bit, and show you a little of how my mind works. What follows are the previous drafts, in reverse chronological order. From these you can see how I handled my discomfort with my birthday and ultimately succumbed to posting about it, despite my original intention to ignore it entirely.
Previous (second) version of this post
Today is my birthday and I am spending it offline, as I do most of my birthdays. I’ve written before about how I am uncomfortable with my birthdays. I’d prefer to treat my birthday as any ordinary day. But people get carried away with milestone birthdays and I decided a fair comproimse would be to acknoweldge that milestone here and move on.
Today I am fifty.
Inside, where that little voice lives, I often still feel five. I still wake up each morning and greet the kids with unique, silly names for each of them. “Good morning, Herman Melville Showercurtain,” I’ll say to one of them. “Good morning, Gretta Moonshine,” I’ll say to another. Like I said. Five, not fifty.
Ten years ago, as I was approaching forty, I wrote a series of posts leading up to the big day. I was more comfortable with my birthday then, I suppose. This year I had to beg and plead with people to not make a big deal about the day. No surprises. A quiet day is all I am looking for. Fortunately, it is Sunday, a day that is usually more quiet than most.
It is possible that Kelly and I will get away for a night and day. (I am writing this almost two weeks ahead of time so there is still some uncertainty here.) That would probably be the best possible birthday. It is extremely rare that we have time together away from the kids.
I debated even putting this post up. What finally decided me was history. I’ve been writing this blog since I was 33 years old. That means long-time readers have been with me for 17 years. It seems only fair to record here on the blog that I turned fifty today. Daring readers can go back to that first post and work their way through the years and get a sense who I am and what I like to think about. I say daring because some of those early posts are hard for me to read. But like me, like this birthday, they are part of the historical record.
Rest assured that I am having a good day offline, something too rare these day (the offline part, not the good day part). And because I didn’t want folks here to think that I was out seeking birthday wishes (I mean, really?), I have turned off the comments on this post2. It is for the record. Otherwise, this is just another normal day on this journey around the sun.
Written on March 15, 2022.
Previous, previous (first) version of this post
I am taking the day off today and I hope no one minds too much. Given that these days, I am generally writing these posts about 2 weeks ahead of time, it makes it a little easier to have a backlog and pick a day in the future to completely disengage. I don’t just plan on taking a day off here on the blog, but also on social media in general. One day free from the pull of social media.
This post, announcing my day off, is to quell any concern of regular readers, who are used to seeing a post from me every day. Indeed, as of this post, I’ve managed to post here on the blog for 450 consecutive days. Therefore, this post serves two purposes:
- To allay any concerns about me. I’m fine, great, cheerful, dandy.
- To ensure that my 450-day posting streak remains unbroken.
You can be assured that I will be back online tomorrow with regularly scheduled programming here on the blog.
If you are looking for other stuff to read in the meantime, you should check out any of the following:
- Melanie Novak’s blog — she’s usually got a new post on Sundays and they are always entertaining.
- The Waiter’s Pad by Mike Dariano
- Jason’s Kottke’s blog (the home of fine hypertext products) — which I recently discovered and which has been around for 24 years — beating my own blog by 7 years.
Those should get you through the day. Have a great one!
Written on March 14, 2022.
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I still intend to wish you happy birthday!
Wishing you a happy unbirthday. Lots of blessings for the big 50
I remember your first birthday. I wanted to post a photo of you with your little birthday hat. Alas I have not been able to figure out how to do this. It has been my great pleasure to celebrate all 50 of your birthdays and look forward to the next ? Years. Love Mom
If you send me the photo, I can post it here.
Belated Happy Birthday — turns out you are 3 days younger than me 🙂