I’ve reached 56. Not a milestone. I did 55 last year. Lots of people told me the ol’ double-nickel was a bit of a trap birthday, that the half-decade hit them in a way the odometer turning to a “5” didn’t. Not my experience, but I get it. There is a certain settling into late middle age/old guy status at 55, and I am 3-plus years into grandparenthood, which drives home the passing of time and march of generations. Honestly, though, I’m currently feeling a bit out of time.
Some of that might be a result of what has grown into the Covid Years. Time has somehow pancaked into irrelevance — or, at least, insufficiency. It’s just not very useful in understanding where and who you or I am. I’m not feeling alone, either, seeing how we are all behind on doctor’s appointments, behind on school, behind on car maintenance, just plain ol’ behind. And it’s not just people. The supply chain. Behind. The fall that didn’t show up till early November. Behind. My wife’s long-awaited Wes Anderson movie. Way, way behind.
So I’m not sweating behind. As I get older, I think less about whether I’m ahead or behind on career arc or accomplishments and more about whether I am simply moving. Do I know more than I used to? Have a forgotten things not worth remembering? Am I a little more skillful at bringing people together? Do I understand that sometimes people need to go?
And that has me thinking about 56 a little differently. I even wrote a haiku:
Fifty-six, it’s one
click over the speed limit,
but not quite speeding.
56 is an adult speed, maybe even a touch of grandpa speed. It’s not passing lane speed. But you can get where you want and enjoy a conversation with your travel partner and the view out the window. At 56, you can brake and pull over to do a little exploring, maybe grab a lobster roll at the place with the hopping parking lot that you blow by at 85.
This is not a resignation to inertia, to stagnation. I can still be impactful and effective, can still pick up and sustain a hard pace if I need to, probably could for a few years if there was a project that required it. But being in motion, not winning the race, is the goal today, because there’s a lot to see and a lot to learn at 56. Of that I’m convinced.
And I think there’s a lot to share. In fact, I’m planning to blog about this and that as close to daily as I can manage in my 56th year. We’ll see where that takes us.
For now, though, I’m headed off to ask my granddaughter to help me blow out my birthday candles. Not because I can’t do it by myself, but because it’s more fun with others.
There are lots of ways to 56. I’m reminded of my dad when I remember this guy, who arrived as if from a different planet. As a kid who grew up on New York sports, the only other guy who arrived similarly was probably Doc Gooden (with whom he later shared some recreational problems). They were unblockable/unhittable. For a while it seemed they were playing a different game than the others. My years in Philadelphia have moved me a long way from those days, but even at 56 I can remember watching them and realizing you were seeing something special.