I’m going to turn 50 in less than a year – making this my goddamn 50th year on the planet – and that scares me far less than I ever imagined. In fact, right up to when I moved from ‘mid’ to ‘late’ forties, there was a huge amount of angst involved with each birthday. An acknowledgement that something profoundly important was being lost with every year gained.
Then a switch flipped when I turned 49 – the year you can no longer pretend you’re in your ‘mid’ forties and have to woefully accept that you are desperately old. At least, you thought you should be old by now. Sixteen-year-old you certainly thought you’d never get as old as 49. My own children refer to anyone past the age of 27 as ‘old people’, and those in their late-40s as dead.
So you’re understandably stepping delicately through your forties when along comes 50, like a looming mountain to climb with clicky knees that are well-past prime and half-a-century worth of baggage on your dodgy back.
Looking at that mountain, you feel like the whole thing is insurmountable. You have neither the energy or the ambition to strap on your boots and tackle your fifties. Aren’t we done yet? Haven’t we done enough already? Haven’t we dutifully climbed every mountain and forded every stream? Didn’t we run marathons to raise young children and swim shark-infested channels when they hit their tweens and teens?
Yep, I felt like this right up until 49, and then something wonderful happened: I completely, totally, utterly ran out of f*cks.
Zero, nada, none
Proving just how few f*cks I give, here is a giant, no-makeup selfie of me that I took because I thought my hair was looking especially good that day:
Aside from the hair situation, it’s been a brilliant couple of years, quietly getting on with whatever I want to do and ignoring pretty much everything else. I no longer feel a sense of obligation to anything or anyone that I don’t value. You know that lingering anxiety we feel about whether we’ve been conscientious enough? It’s completely gone.
These days, I’m content in knowing what is important to me and fostering relationships and activities that value them just as highly. I don’t work with assholes, won’t talk to pricks and will not suffer fools, gladly or even a little bit.
Turns out, it’s quite easy to get rid of most of the junk in your life. You get older, you get wiser and you simply stop returning the calls or emails of the world’s shittier people. I’ve taken to saying ‘no thank you, that’s not for me’ so often that I literally have it is an ‘auto-text’ in both my email and phone. No thank you, that’s not for me.
Old is wasted on the young, too
Oh, the self-assuredness that comes from being old is simply marvellous.
Youth might be wasted on the young, but this level of quiet self-esteem is probably wasted on us oldies. If only we could bottle it and hand it out to young people as they exit the school bus. Here, love, take a dose of 50-year-old ‘go f*ck yourself’ to get you through the school day.
There can be nothing but joy in that. For every extra wrinkle and wobble (and what is with that strange skin-crepe bullshit?), we gain an extra dose of fortitude, resilience and self-love. Society might scoff at our lack of youthful beauty, but luckily we care not a jot for their opinion anyway. We are far too busy wondering when we got to be so awesome.
Views for miles
Look, I haven’t given up on the world entirely. I’m not quite 50 yet and there’s still that mountain to climb. But what I’ve realised in my 50th year is that there is no shame in taking the scenic route. No fear in stopping to peer over edges and climb a few trees. There’s nothing to gain from racing to the top and everything to enjoy about taking things one, slow, clicky-knee step at a time.
I’ve also realised that there is no shortage of people who want to help me up that mountain. Those that will walk beside me and make me laugh when the going gets tough. People who will reach a hand down to help me over a tricky bit. And the many I’ll pass along the way with a cheery wave and a smile.
All these people have been there all along, but it’s only when we get older that we really see them. Before now, we’ve been too busy focusing on the judgmental shit-stirrers who are already at the top of the mountain. It pays to look to the left, right and behind as we slog away at life.
A final thought. Society might claim that we’re all chasing youth, but frankly, society is wrong. I think everyone over fifty already knows that, but nobody wants to share the delicious secret. Bags not telling them.
How old were you when you became awesome?