I've long believed that I was destined--whatever that means--to die young. But today is my 55th birthday, and even if I died today or sometime before my next birthday, it would be difficult to make the argument that I died young. I'm now well into what might charitably be called "middle-age." I say "charitably," because when I look at photos of myself, I scarcely recognize the person staring back at me. What little hair he has left has turned almost entirely gray, and his face looks just plain old.
Yet, when I'm not viewing myself in photos or in the mirror, I still think of myself as young, and, in life experience, I probably am much more the young man just barely out of adolescence than I am a guy rushing headlong into senior citizen status. I guess this is one reason why I'm so deferential to other adults, especially those in positions of authority. I tend see them as my elders if not superiors even if they're decades younger than me and they're not truly "better" than me, and even if they do have better jobs and far more life experience than me in some important respects.
Yet, as backward as I might be compared to most of my fellow adults, I see that I have been through so much, learned so much, and, I would like to think, matured so much in the past decade or so or even in the past five years or so. But there is so much more to do, to learn, and to mature before I can even begin to catch up with my peers. In fact, I think it's pretty certain that I will never catch up with them. I'll always be more the insecure boy than the mature, competent, and self-assured adult. The best I can probably hope for is to become more comfortable in my own skin, warts and, all and to more fully accept my limitations while I nevertheless strive, more and better than ever, to make the most of my strengths.
In any event, I greet my 55th birthday today far more positively than a friend of mine recently received his 54th. For him, each passing birthday seems to be an ever more vivid and depressing reminder of inevitable and encroaching decay and mortality. For me, each birthday is a gift I never expected. Each birthday may be my last, and one day, perhaps today, I will celebrate my last birthday, but I will celebrate it with gratitude for all the blessings--and there have been many--I've enjoyed in my life.
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