Yours truly, when 50 was still a LONG ways away… 😛
So it happened. I reached the ripe old age of 50 today.
While I was trying to let that sink in, I couldn’t help but remember my dad’s 50th birthday. I was 11. I remembered we had a nice little celebration in Rio, where we were living at the time. Amid the festivities, I asked Pop how old he was now. Because for some reason, I hadn’t kept track. When he told me, I was flabbergasted. “50” sounded SO old. Pop saw how shocked I was and said dryly, “Don’t worry son. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to be 50 someday too.” I remember answering him that would be a VERY long time before that happened. Like forever. Funny how slowly time moved back then.
That childhood memory didn’t fade with time, like some others. When I turned 25, my roommate Jay said to me, “Just think, 25 years ago, you were born. 25 years from now, you’re gonna be FIFTY!” I remembered that depressing the shit out of me for some reason, while replaying that old memory from Rio in my frontal lobe. Yet even then, it seemed eons away until I’d actually reach that half-century milestone.
Now that I’ve reached that rather alarming number and it’s more or less finally sunk in, I realized something. After all the panic and mid-life crisis bullshit that I’m expected to go through passed, of course. I suppose that’s obligatory. Anyway, despite the high-sounding number, in the grand scheme of things it really has no bearing on how I think or function. Nor should it.
There is still a lot to process about life, and that number simply doesn’t matter nor apply. It doesn’t matter that I’m childless or even basically homeless. While I’m sure that may come across as rather pathetic to some people.
While I’m happy that I think I’ve done quite a bit of living during my time so far on this rock, seen many places and had some pretty amazing adventures, one thing remains clear. There is still just so much more to do. So many more places to see and so many more people to meet. Life doesn’t stop because of a certain age, especially if you’re physically and mentally able to keep doing your thing.
Since leaving my boat, essentially my last real home, in Panama a couple of years back, I’ve been strangely transient. Even more so than when I was cruising. At least when I was cruising I was taking my “home” along with me. Since then I’ve been literally living out of a backpack and a roller duffel for the last two or so years. I’d have no problem planting myself in one place for months at a time. In just the past two years, “home” has been Sweden, Denmark, Brazil, Argentina, Finland, Australia and Spain. With countless other countries around and in-between. The strange part? No matter where I was, I always more or less felt “at home”. I’ve come to understand that this planet can be my home. And “home” is pretty big. 🙂
I spent the last couple of weeks in Barcelona, mainly on a working/writing retreat. During that time, I was asked the same questions by both an old and new friend…
“Where do you see your life being in the future? Where do you think you’ll ‘settle down’?”
I found it odd that I was being asked this by two people significantly younger than me. It seemed to me that I should have been the one asking THEM these probing questions. After all, isn’t that supposed to be some privilege belonging to the elders? Odd indeed.
In the process of answering, I felt the need to highlight a profound truth I had come to learn.
Life is not really about “settling down”, nor is it about “searching”. There is no rule about “finding your place”, nor does it even need to be ONE place. At least not to me. It’s all about living. How you want to live it, and striving to do just that. Without pressure or feeling the need to conform for conformity’s sake. Without being pressured to live your life according to someone else’s rules.
And maybe that’s the problem for many of us. At least those of us who are lucky enough to have options and choices. Because many of us don’t due to forces beyond their control. Maybe too many of us spend our whole lives searching for something that’s not even really there. Striving to find that perfect life, perfect love, perfect beach, perfect home, and so on. I came to realize despite my extensive traveling and yearning to see new places, that I had actually stopped “searching” a long time ago. In the course of living, a lesson was learned. To just let life take me on the journey that I’m supposed to take, naturally. Too often, trying to plan your life too much ends up being an exercise in futility. So why bother? Maybe it’s better to just let life flow and for you to just float along with it. Rather than try to control a river of destiny that can’t really be controlled in the first place.
All I can hope for is there are no rocky rapids or deadly waterfalls along my particular river. I’m getting too old for that shit.