It seems to have all of a sudden hit me that I’m in my mid-50s. With that awareness comes the oh-so-common, “Where did all the time go?” (And there’s no mid-life crisis here with plans to go out and buy a corvette and cruise with a young blonde bombshell named Bambi).
This realization that I’m growing older isn’t just a discovery of me, but that my longtime friends are getting long in the tooth also.
Now, instead of getting married, we seem to be walking our kids down the aisle. Instead of congratulating each other on a new job, assignment, or promotion, kudos are now for retirements. Instead of births of our children, it’s the announcement of births of our GRANDchildren (enter cheesy way to announce that I’m going to be a grandfather in May).
I’ve always said I didn’t mature until I hit 40 when the “emotional drama” of growing up was behind me. It was then that a personal transformation began and I realized that the universe didn’t revolve around Rich.
It was also at that age that I realized I had become more like my parents than ever before with teenaged kids who were only a few years behind my mental age – I’d swear that it wasn’t that long ago that I was a 20-year-old kid.
Entering my fifties I discovered I had a different mindset, looking back seeing all the time lost in trying to attain career goals, keep a family afloat, grasping for that brass ring just out of reach, that I missed out on some joys of life.
It seems earlier I had sacrificed family events to work overtime, missed kids’ school productions because I preferred the night shifts, or wasn’t satisfied with what I had accomplished because there was always one more step to take to get what “I wanted.”
I was fortunate to be able to “retire” at age 51 after 26 years of law enforcement service.
With the rat race over, it was hard for me to just “let go” and concentrate more on the “gifts” around me. As difficult as the transformation was, I began to grant myself permission to just “be” and become more satisfied with what I have rather than bemoaning everything I don’t own or didn’t become.
I know what I have done is my own making, accepting that I am the one who played the cards I was dealt. I’ll gladly accept that the hardships of life – financial challenges, employment downfalls, and relationship strains – have fallen on my shoulders, as opposed to my kids as they now are in their 20’s beginning the journey of family, career, and responsible adulthood.
With my age getting up there, physical changes have occurred over the years.
My hair has grayed, and with that now comes frequent references that I look like the second coming of John Gotti.
With 54 – or above being only a number in my mind – I still try to do active things as I earlier did, but find out injuries don’t heal as fast.
Hitting three decades of marriage by this age I’ve come to appreciate my wife in more ways every day. The scales have decidedly tipped towards loving where we are in life, celebrating a flexible work schedule, weekend trips, and new discoveries.
The ability to have entire conversations across the dinner table or on opposite sides of the couch, swirling wine glasses, getting “deep” in whatever the topic. Sharing feelings without fear of abandonment knowing “we’re stuck with each other now” because if she ever tries to leave, I’m packing and going with her.
There’s something about that kind of comfort.
Speaking of being comfortable – or maybe the result of being TOO comfortable, I’ve been attempting to lose the weight I’ve put on since my 20-somethings. The pounds gained through the stress, worry and just plain gluttony of the last 30 years was creating some excessive baggage around the waistline.
The ironic thing is my target weight at 54 is what would have had me starving myself and running to the gym every morning in my 30s.
Fortunately I’m healthy, still have good mobility and don’t need to be greased to fit through a door jam or smash cheap furniture when I sit down.
At this point I’m enjoying a job that keeps my interest and welcome the challenges and learning that are coming with it.
Along with that, I’m finally getting the chance to tackle some of my bucket-list projects, finally learning Spanish for the yearly (or more) trips to Mexico we enjoy.
Meanwhile, I’m using my newfound perspective to find joy in 50+ and every glorious day of it.
Better to burn out than fade away…
Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.