When I turned fifty, a few weeks ago, I got lots of good wishes, both in real life and on that social media thing. That was all really nice.
I didn’t say very much about it though. The whole ‘Turning Fifty’ thing. The reasons for this were none-too-deep or impenetrable. I really had nothing to say, that’s all.
Fifty turned out to be just another day, another leaf peeled off the calendar, that’s all.
I sat up late and got up early on the day I turned fifty, perhaps in the hope that some new insight would come out and show itself. But the dawn didn’t bring any great new philosophy or wisdom for me to share with you. I quietly slipped into my sixth decade on the planet and on we go. Slow days and lightning-fast years. Just the same as it has always been.
Perhaps now, though, a few weeks in, I can offer a line or two on what it feels like to be fifty, for me at least. Don’t get all excited or anything like that, it’s not going to be much.
My little insight (if that is indeed what it turns out to be) came about because I took a week off with my family. Just the four of us. It was lovely. No, you don’t need to know where, it’s not relevant. We packed up and went away and we lived in each other’s ears for the whole week. Like I said, it was nice, it was lovely.
Here’s what I concluded.
Being fifty is like arriving at Wednesday on your week off.
When Wednesday comes, in the span of your week off, it is like a hill has been crested and the time remaining now lies spread out before you much more clearly than the wonderful mysterious first part ever did. You can see the route before you and it is a downhill route which means that the journey will unfold more quickly now and, most likely, there will be more stumbles.
There is now a niggling feeling. Although there is plenty of time left in your holiday, and although you have learned in those first awkward days how to appreciate the days of your week, still the niggle remains that those long carefree days before the end came into view are now finally over and, no matter how much fun and how much joy is still to be had, that end will always be there, visible, on the horizon. It is no longer obscure.
Maybe it’s just me. The second part of anything has never been the best part for me. Some tiny tic in my brain always seems to know when the centre point of something has been passed and when the latter half begins. So it has always been. Time gets counted, split into two factions. The ‘up’ and the ‘back-down’. I know, I know, that this life-week of mine probably reached its actual zenith way back when I hit forty or even thirty-five. This fifty-thing is actually to-hell-and-gone past my half-way-point. I know. But still my life now feels like the hump-of-the-week to me. Not necessarily in a negative way but, honestly, not entirely in a positive way either.
Such is life.
That’s all I got on the subject.
Oh. That’s almost all I got.
One other observation for now. Memories seem to become easier to identify when you get beyond fifty. When you were young, you had no idea what things would embed themselves as deep, valued, memories. Some random word, some fleeting tune, the smell of the inside of a bus on a summer’s day… who the hell knew what would stick?
Now, at fifty, things present themselves as memories almost at the exact moment they happen. You see/hear/smell something unfold before you and you say to yourself, “This… this will be a memory to warm the heart when the Winter comes around again… and the Winter after that and the Winter after that.”
People, your most treasured people, huddled close together in early-evening sparkling water which is so bright that they are reduced to nothing more than laughing silhouettes in the dazzling golden gleam. "This will be a memory," you say, "I will remember this."
You spot these memories, when you are over fifty, and you store them away and then you hope a little that you may be around to sup on them, to let them sustain you, even when many other things have gone.