When I was twenty years old, and a junior in college at Oregon State University, I thought I knew everything. My history professor James, who was all of forty at the time, told me over drinks one night, that the assumption was thoroughly appropriate for my age. “After all”, he said, “the only time in my life that I ever knew anything was when I was twenty. It was only when I got older than I realized, I didn’t know anything at all”. I remember feeling rather smug at the time, which really only proved his point, because I felt as if I DID know everything, and with the certainty of someone who is too young to have the sort of life experience to realize just how little I actually knew, about anything, really. When I was 20 I couldn’t imagine being 52, and now that I am 52 I can’t imagine what was so great about being 20. Oh sure, I don’t stop traffic anymore the way I used to, and there are parts of my body that have gravitated to new locations, but when the host of THE AMAZING RACE openly marvels that a farm couple in their fifties made it more than halfway through last seasons show without an oxygen tank and a wheelchair, I figured it was time to make a stand in favor of getting older.
EVERYTHING about being older is better than I could have ever imagined it would be. Because it finally occurred to me….I didn’t have forever to do this anymore.
I didn’t have time to judge people. I didn’t have time to waste. I didn’t need to be self conscious about my body anymore. It was my body and I needed to learn to love it, because I was never going to look like a supermodel. Even though I may never be a gourmet cook or learn how to speak Mandarin Chinese like a native, who cares? As long as I am willing to try, then what possible reason do I have NOT to do whatever I damned well please?
I am 52 years old, and my signficant other is 58. We find ourselves marvelling at the youth culture, if for no other reason than the fact that we find it incredible that ANYONE under the age of forty thinks anyone over the age of forty is boring. Michael has been a dive master, a jump master, a motivational speaker, an artist, a whitewater raft guide, a welder, a carpenter, a contractor, a rough neck, a bartender, a restaurant manager, a ski instructor, a marathon runner and a commercial photographer. At 56 he was the Rookie of the Year and at 57, the Raft Guide of the Year, at two different raft companies between 2010 and 2011.
I worked in the film industry for twelve years before becoming a gourd artist, a painter, a handbag designer, and, when the economy went in the toilet, an inbound sales agent, a telemarketing recruiter AND a virtual assistant for a cookbook author. Against all odds we managed to land a permanent home loan modification from one of the most intractable mortgage companies on the planet, and even though we aren’t where we thought we would be at this point in our lives, we still spend our weekends roaming the North Carolina countryside on the back of Michael’s 1988 Heritage Softtail when we aren’t rafting the class three and four rapids on the French Broad River.
In the past two years, we’ve sent in audition tapes for the Amazing Race, Survivor, Expedition Impossible and Project Accessory, and even though we still believe reality TV stardom is in the cards for both of us, the idea that, at 52 and 58 we are obsolete members of this society makes us both laugh. Because if 50 is the new 30, then people, you all need to get the hell out of our way. Cause we plan on passing all you suckers, straight on by…..