Thirteen years ago, I had finally reached a place where I no longer thought it was vain or needy, or greedy (or any other thing I didn’t want to be) to make a big deal out of celebrating my birthday. I adopted a friend’s tradition of “birthday week” — planning large and little celebrations for myself to draw out the specialness of having a birthday. I threw myself a party … and I didn’t feel guilty about it, I just had fun. The next year I bought a super-fancy cake to share with some friends.
And then eleven years ago my birthday was eclipsed and I’ve been struggling ever since to find a way to remember that September 11th is also a good day because it’s my birthday, to find a way to celebrate myself without seeming disrespectful, to find a way to just have something be a little normal. The double significance of the day can sometimes catch me unawares. Even now. When I started writing yesterday’s “it’s the day before my birthday” post, I thought I was so clever: I was going to call it: “On the Almost Incendiary Eve,” stealing a line from Dylan Thomas’ “Deaths and Entrances.” But then I heard myself. Because not only are there too many incendiary images/memories about today, there is also the fact of the poem being written about dying in a building bombed during the Blitz … not the way to go.
Still struggling to find the balance between observances, still looking for some normalcy. I’ve succeeded in some years, failed miserably in others. I think at this point I’m a little reconciled to the reality that this is just what my birthday is going to be from here forward.
So. I’m 50. It’s old news already (pun sort of intended — I got my AARP membership invitation in the mail last week!). Let’s get down to business.
You’ve probably noticed people making lists all over the place. All those people with their buckets and such. I make lists, too. All the time. I don’t usually pick a specific number of items for the list, I just jump in. Then I happened on the birthday listers, the people who make an age-numbered list of things they want to do. And doing all the must-do stuff before you turn 50 seems to be a big goal. There are about 800,000 blogs and lists online that catalog the many things people want to do before they
are instantly too old to think straight, stand and walk, and talk without drooling turn 50. Here’s a random sampling:
Life Gets in the Way, or SimeyC’s Hub Page, or Julie Hibbard, or Lori Mole’s 50 Paintings Before I’m 50 (which is actually pretty fabulously ambitious and just plain fabulous), Madeline Perry, or 50 Before I’m 50, or Carolyn’s 50 … Before 50 … you get the idea.
I’m not sure I do, however. Why do we feel the need to get everything done before we’re 50? There may be many things that need to be done earlier in life, but why is 50 the dramatic deadline number? It is my great hope and sincere expectation that I will still be running around making a fool of myself for another 20 or 30 years. Do I really need to cross so many things off my list so “early” in the game?
Perhaps more helpful are the lists that tell you things you should be sure to do after you turn 50. The Telegraph’s 50 must do things for 50-year-olds pleased me for the most part — I love that “come out of the closet” is on the list, but could someone tell me what “a personal MOT” is (#45)? — and the ones that tell you what not to do/eat/hang onto/buy/try after 50 (courtesy of my soon-to-be-new-friends at AARP).
In any case, I decided to make a list of things I want to do this year, and exactly half of it is ready for prime time. The rest is more personal than I need to be writing about in public. So here’s a half-serving of my 50-List:
- Write every day (no, EVERY DAY)
- Take three writing vacations (the first one’s already in the works!)
- Apply to four residencies
- Become fluent in Spanish (finally!)
- Make time to read more
- Be as much of a locavore as possible (goodbye to mangoes? … no)
- Go dancing (I want to say “more” but need to just say “GO”)
- Ride a roller coaster (It’s 10 years since I last rode the Cyclone)
- Have knee replacement surgery
- Learn canning and jam-making
- Do African genealogy test
- Take voice lessons
- Get new helmet and new tires and learn to ride bike my bike without abject terror
- Go on photo walks with my “real” camera
- Start making jewelry again
- Take glass bead-making class
- Save for metal clay tools and kiln
- Save for spinning wheel and floor loom
- Go to Calabash festival
- Pay down my mountain of (in)fertility debt
- Interview my mother, StoryCorps-style
- Plan trip to Africa
- Walk minimum of 15 miles/week
- Take a life drawing class
- Go back to New Orleans
It’s far from earth-shaking, and some of it’s much more “work” than “walk on the wild side,” but it all moves me forward, and some of it will just be flat-out fun.
Because it’s Tuesday, you can head over to Stacey and Ruth’s to see what the other slice of life writers are up to.