I turned 69 yesterday and my big birthday revelation is that I’m going to be 70 in less than a year. Does age mean anything? I remember when I was a tween and I just wanted to be 13 so I could say I was a teenager. Then when I was a teenager, I just wanted to be 21 because that seemed to be the age that signified the complete freedom of adulthood. Also, I came of age in the era when it was popular to say don’t trust anyone over 30. Now the idea of 30 as maturity seems absurd to me. My advice is don’t trust anyone under 40 because they’re still in their formative years. Fervent belief in having all the answers is the signature characteristic of youth. And old age. It’s taken me 69 years to learn that I know nothing. Most of life is a mirage. What’s real are the possibilities.
Even at 69 I see how anything is possible. My mirage looks different, but it’s still out there and I’m still motivated to move toward it. Even though it’s a completely different picture than it was in my 20s. I no longer dream of managing a rock band through a global tour of stadium arenas, spending nights on a velour tour bus, and wiping up the cocaine sprinkles with a wet finger. In my 30s my mirage was the top of the corporate ladder. In my 40s my mirage was winning the desk jockey race to wealth with a dotcom IPO and stock options. It didn’t happen, but I saved up enough dough to buy a farm and in my 50s I built a new mirage raising cows and chickens.
Then on my 60th birthday in 2014, I had the epiphany that my farm was not going to be economically sustainable. The cartilage in my hips and knees was wearing too thin, and my debt was piled too high. To take care of myself as I aged, I needed to transform my lifestyle, downsize, and start over. I sold my dream house, experimented with living in a few different places, then drove with my dog from New York City to Seattle, finally landing in Portland, Oregon. Dislocating myself, selling my home and most of my possessions was an emotionally brutal experience. But I had to torch my old mirage to make way for a new one. By 2018 I was a devout minimalist working at becoming a successful writer. That, too, is a mirage. A writer writes. But success is an emotional abstract. My goalposts float on Monet’s lily pads.
Regardless, I published a memoir in 2020 just as the pandemic began because my writer mirage refused to die quietly. Facebook became my social life. And just when the possibilities looked a lot like a cake left out in the rain, my story blossomed into a romance. Imagine me, a romance writer. It’s a possibility I had not considered. And yet, I find unexpected durability in my happiness here living with my cohabitant. So, I can’t complain about anything that’s ever happened to me. All those collapsed goals, failed initiatives, and torched mirages were just my steppingstones. There was only one path to this moment and it’s the path I took.
That’s my big birthday revelation. Aging has a sweet spot, and I’m there. After almost a decade of metamorphosis, I feel like I finally have wings again, and this time my mirage has evolved with me. Possibilities are popping up like wildflowers, I’m flying high and hoping to ride the light all the way to 70.