Saturday, January 14, 2012

The First Day of the Seventh Decade (Part 1)

My birthday was yesterday. It was number 60. That sounds bad enough until you put it in terms of me starting my seventh decade of life on earth, which is worse.

Don't know how I managed to stay alive so long, given everything that can go wrong over the course of sixty years. I could have been killed in an automobile wreck many times, and in fact I walked away from a car crash last July that totaled my SUV. I could have died in an airplane crash, because for many years I did a huge amount of traveling.

Maybe I could have been shot in a robbery, or a random murder. You hear about that all the time. For many years I hung out in some really bad areas of big cities like Washington, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, to name a very few. Perhaps I could have been walking along on a sidewalk minding my own business when an out-of-control truck jumps the curb and creams me. Or some really huge object falls on top of me. These things happen, you know.

Or maybe I could have contracted some terminal medical condition like AIDS, cancer, or some brain or heart malady that would have ended my life. You hear about people who don't make it to their thirtieth birthday let alone their sixtieth. Or maybe I could have been one of those people whose time has just run out on them, and they drop over dead for no apparent reason, or never wake up one morning due to "natural causes."

It's true, a lot of random things could have happened to prevent me from reaching this milestone, but somehow it didn't. Maybe it's just a huge amount of luck or someone watching over me, but I managed to make it this far with most of my original equipment still intact.

I have not only survived, but I have thrived.

My life so far, and it's still a continuing, evolving story as I start a new chapter, has been a life of adventures, challenges, and learning experiences, with the occasional mistake or misstep thrown in to keep me in line or teach me something. I feel I have been extraordinarily lucky in innumerable ways, but most importantly I have the great privilege and luxury of living my life exactly the way that I want to live it.

I've always been one to buck the trend of society when it comes to assigning gender roles and what people should "do" with their lives. I have never married nor had children, and I never wanted to do either. At the age when most people were getting married and raising families, I was too busy getting my career started and traveling and having loads of fun. And I honestly don't regret that for one second. People sometimes say to me, "You don't know what you have missed by not getting married and having children." Maybe, but I prefer to think that I have been able to have an entirely different set of experiences in my life that didn't involve marriage and children, which have enriched and illuminated my life just as much but in other ways.

I never would want to be stuck in a loveless marriage with children who despise and disrespect me. I never wanted to have to deal with school activities or sporting events or college expenses. I was never particularly interested in having to remember birthdays of in-laws or wedding anniversaries or who we're spending Christmas with this year. I never wanted to have to go through a divorce, when a relationship that started off so well turned toxic and died. Call me selfish, but I knew very early on in my life what I wanted and didn't want, and I didn't let anything or anyone talk me out of my chosen path in life. And that, in many ways, is the most important thing I have ever done.

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