40 was supposed to be the new 30, at least according to Sheryl Crow. I’m not sure if that was true because I can’t compare my 40s to any other 40s I’ve ever had because I think I only get to live each decade once. I know that I tried to live my 40s as if I was still a young man. I don’t regret doing that but I also felt that I was too young to try to live any other way.
Now that I’m north of 50, I feel a bit differently. I still rage against aging but I think that I may have lightened up just a bit. I think that I’ve given myself permission to put aside a few younger pursuits and “retire” from certain things. It has been liberating.
For instance, I’ve given up backpacking. I used to love backpacking. The problem is that two strokes don’t love backpacking. I also have osteoarthritis in my left knee. My doctor and I joke that there are four levels of knee osteoarthritis: mild, moderate, severe and Dan.
So along life’s way, I may have figured a few things out. I still do love the idea of backpacking. The thing is, I don’t necessarily need to tumble down a hill or pop ibuprofen from a pez dispenser to get the same enjoyment. When I broaden the view of what I enjoy and how I enjoy it, I can “backpack” without actually doing it.
You see, when we are young, we want to try every activity that remotely relates to our passions. What we don’t realize is that our passions need not be confined to certain activities. My passion is getting outdoors and being a bit antisocial about it. I don’t need to carry my passion on my back.
I think that one learns a lot about resilience after 50. I never want to give in or give up. However, if I look more closely at those things I am passionate about, there is often another way to enjoy them. For instance, if I try to grouse hunt like I used to, I’m reduced to a stumbling fool who isn’t hunting, he is just trying to walk through heavy vegetation without falling over. So, I walk on trails. I can do that quite well. But how can I do that and still be antisocial? I find little used trails and visit them on weekdays. It’s an adjustment but it works. I don’t need to consult anyone but my dog, Max, and he has never articulated an objection.
I’ve found a giddy pleasure at giving up old ways of doing things and in giving up old things to do. I still feel resilient, stubborn, passionate and antisocial. So far, so good. I also feel released to identify those things that I enjoy now and focus on doing them in an enjoyable way. I think that turning 50 finally gives one permission to stop doing things based on momentum or based on expectations, mine or anyone else’s. I shouldn’t have needed a change of decade to do that but it helped.
I truly like Sheryl Crow’s music and her personality. However, with all due respect to Ms. Crow, I don’t care if 50 is the new 40 or the new 80 or the new whatever. I care that I’m still feisty and antisocial. I care that there is still an outdoors. I care about my dog’s opinion and he insists on taking me for walks. I don’t need society’s thoughts about how to enjoy life and I don’t need to retire from my passions.