Today is my fifty-third birthday.
When I was younger, someone who was my current age was old. They dressed in slacks and cardigans, walked a lot slower, and ate things like green beans and beef stroganoff.
Now that I’m fifty-three, it doesn’t seem so old anymore.
Part of this is the Boomers’ fault – they refused to act their age, and brought their jeans and workout routines and chopped salads with them into their golden years. Being fifty-three now isn’t what it was four decades ago.
And part of it is that I just don’t feel it.
I vividly remember a conversation with my Dad when he was about the age I am now. He told me how he didn’t feel his outside age on the inside. Inside he was still in his twenties.
I totally get that now. I still feel like I’m twenty too, with all the excitement for the day and the annoying insecurity that goes with it. Then I look in the mirror and see my slowly-thinning hair and the wrinkles starting to set into my face like tiny rivers carving out canyons.
I got serious about writing fairly late – in my mid forties. Although I started writing in my teens, part of me always had this weird idea that I wouldn’t be really good at it until I was in my forties, and had some life experience behind me to back it up. But looking back, I realize I also left a lot of writing time on the table, time I could have used to make more of a career out of it.
As my age ticks up another year, I wonder what I could have accomplished if I’d stuck with this writing thing in back in my twenties, or even my thirties. Would I be a world-reknowned spec fic author now, established at one of the Big Five publishers? Would fans line up at cons for my autograph?
Done is done. I can’t get those years back.
I also wonder if I can still be fresh and new with my writing and my ideas. How much am I a product of my upbringing, my youth, the years in which I became an adult? Is it harder for me to really write something surprising and out of the box as it would be for someone who’s twenty? Am I out of step with the world today, no matter how hard I try to keep up?
On the flip side, how much good writing time do I have left? Sure, I might be able to write until I’m 90 or 100, but who really knows? And for how much of that time will I have the ability to produce complex, different, beautiful work before my mind and imagination become less flexible, before senility kicks in? Or before I lose my sight or get really sick or any of a hundred other things that come to mind when I look ahead? I know, those things are probably decades away. But birthdays have the marvelous effect of clarifying the mind about aging.
I don’t have answers to any of these things. Yeah, I know, you were hoping for some grand revelation, some bit of wisdom I’ve acquired in all these fifty-three years. Sorry about that. I’ve got nothing. Nothing but this:
In the end, it all comes down to the here and now. I am who I am. I started when I started. And I have the tools I have.
And though I can’t know what might have been, or what may still be, I can seize this moment, and do all that I can to leave my mark on the world.
And isn’t that the best anyone can hope for?
To my writing friends… do you think about your age in respect to your writing? How does one impact the other?