“What does it feel like to turn fifty?” I have to laugh, for I have heard that asked more times than I can count. Mostly by friends only a few years younger than me. It’s as if they are looking for answers so they can prepare themselves for the day they reach fifty themselves. Can they honestly prepare themselves for this event? As I ponder the answer to the question of how it feels to be fifty, I honestly can’t give a definitive answer.
In my youth, I never thought about being fifty, it seemed so far away. Almost as if fifty was on another planet. Yes, I have landed on another planet, where life suddenly looks quite different. What’s different one asks? Well for starters, almost everyone is younger or much older. Seriously though, as I think about my answer, the most obvious comes to mind, the once chiseled looks of my youth have been replaced by a softness, that extents to my inner soul. For this is where I have noticed change the most. The person I was in my twenties, no longer seems to exist, only in memory. Someone I used to know very well, and now I only have distant memories of the times we shared. Where did she go? Oh my God, she turned fifty … she has landed on Planet Fifty … and the inhabitants are all moving in one direction …
As I think back to that young woman, I realize if given the chance to sit down and talk to her, what would I say? I would have so much to share with her about life and love, relationships and the roads she will travel. But then I think to myself, would she listen, would she be willing to hear what I have to say, and maybe even take the advice that I give with such love? Advice that would help her along her journey as she starts to write her life story, I don’t think so. For in our youth, we tend to think we will write our life story in a fashion that suits our needs. We plan and make decisions never factoring in the bumps we encounter on the highway of life, or the outside forces that come into play. Yes, we are in complete control, we own the road, or so we think.
Reflecting back on those roads, the many detours, and road blocks that sent me and my future into new directions. I came to the conclusion that yes, I could drive anywhere, however, I did not create the maps for the roads I traveled on. It was the road of life, and while I had my destination planned, I never took into account the many other travelers I would encounter on this highway of life. I would meet and add many characters into the novel I entitled the story of my life. Some were rich in character and drove along making life more scenic. While others drove only to get ahead of the traffic, ignoring all the rules of the road, oblivious of who they ran off the road, in their need to get ahead.
While driving to reach my destination, a destination still unknown to me, I thought to myself, “why are people always in such a hurry?” Is getting there faster going to make one happier? I guess for some the scenic route is not an option … they want to get “there” yesterday. By taking the fast route and weaving in and out of traffic, one misses all the small treasures one finds along the highway of life. As I thought about this, I asked myself where is there? How does one know where “there” is, as the future is still unknown? No matter how much planning we do, and we do plan, we want to enjoy this ride. Yet somehow the future happens when we least expect it to.
Yet everyone on this highway seems to be in search of happiness and who doesn’t want to be happy? Happy with love, relationships, children, careers, the list is endless. Isn’t that what one would label a successful life, having found happiness? I have to ask, can happiness be a constant companion in ones life? A very nice thought, but does happiness all the time really exist? Or are they just moments captured in time that make the unpaved roads of life a little easier to take? Knowing that after a while, the bumps we encounter will soon be smooth paved highway once more.
I realized most people spend their entire life either trying to achieve happiness or keep it. Moving constantly, trying to achieve even more happiness, and I ask, “Can one have to much happiness?” What intrigued me the most about this concept was not happiness itself, but the search for happiness and the pursuit to keep it.
Are we not similar in our search for happiness as a dog looking for the perfect spot to bury his bone? Yes, we are. Think about this for a moment, you hold out a bone for the dog, he wags his tail waiting in anticipation for the moment he will have it in his possession … you might ask him to do a trick, pat him on the head and say “Good boy,” and you reward him by giving him the bone. Then all of a sudden having been given the bone, he takes off like a speeding bullet. He looks over his shoulder to make sure you are not to close behind to try and snatch it away. Then when he feels safe, he looks around the yard, looking for the perfect spot to bury it. He starts digging, “No, this isn’t the right spot” so he keeps digging… till he finds just the right spot. He digs furiously, all the while looking over his hind quarters to make sure no one is watching. He drops the bone into the hole and covers it up. Aren’t we the same in our search to find and keep happiness?
A dog will dig up the whole backyard in search of that perfect spot to bury his bone, leaving a trail in the backyard that resembles an excavation site. And we as humans search for happiness by flitting from one thing to another in search of happiness, we leave our lives turned upside down in much fashion as the dog who just dug up the whole backyard. Unfinished, only scratching the surface, never bothering to see what we might find if we had dug just a little deeper. We are a nation filled with consumers in search of and keeping happiness. And if you fail to find happiness on your own, you can either blame the other drivers on this highway of life or find happiness with a trip to the local pharmacy. For we are a nation with little patience, and want relief instantly to what ever ails us.
So as I think about what it feels like to be fifty, I can say with certainty, I have landed on another planet where I look at the inhabitants and realize that I once too dug up the whole backyard trying to find happiness. But being on Planet Fifty, I realize I need to dig further and deeper to find the treasures I seek. For they are there, the unpolished stones, that shine when I take the time to wipe away the dirt. Each more brilliant than the next, all we need to do is unearth them, and then we find happiness. Taking the scenic route and stopping to sample life is all one needs … to find happiness.