Today is my birthday.
Like most of us, once the thirties turned into the forties, birthdays started to lose a bit of their appeal. I mean, it’s still nice to have the day remembered – get some good wishes, maybe a little gift or two – but overall they kind of become a reminder that the clock is ticking, and it ain’t going backwards.
Not so much with this one for me. This year, leading up to this day, I had the experience that I hope you never will. I had the experience of honestly, truly, wondering if I’d see this birthday or at least the one after that. This year I had cancer come back when every indication implied that it never would.
A few days ago I found out that everything is going to be okay after all. My Oncologist said the words “good news”, and a billion pounds of worry and dread fell from my shoulders. The world seemed brighter, and the sound of doors opening up to the future filled my ears. The months of treatment, all of my efforts for better health, all the support of friends and family, have proven successful, and for now – hopefully forever – the coast, and my CT scan, is clear.
So last night, out with good friends, celebrating, I reflected on ageing, and my current change in attitude toward the whole birthday thing: from “oh great, another one” to “woo hoo, keep ’em coming” – and we started talking about how it seems like our generation is growing older in an entirely different way than generations before us. Is that true? Or does every generation feel that way as its members climb through their forties, fifties, and on up?
Obviously there are advances in health care and life expectancy: thirty-six isn’t a ripe old age for Grandpa to hit, and it’s unlikely that you’ll croak because you had a cut on your foot and walked through the sewage filled gutters of downtown. But it does seem like our parents were really old by the time they were our age, doesn’t it? I wonder if our kids will feel the same way, looking back at us. Or has our generation kind of maxxed out the staying youthful; age is just a number; sixty is the new forty, kind of mentality?
We are, clearly, a youth obsessed culture – at least here in North America. There are plenty of examples of the negative side of not wanting to grow old before we’re ready: faces botoxed to the point of immobility; mini-skirts where mini-skirts should never be; middle aged men dumping women in favour of girls. But there are a lot of positives too, that lead me to believe that if we have to get older, now is a pretty primo time to be doing it.
Gone is the social reprimand that you’re ever too old to try something new. I remember my Mom worrying that it was inappropriate for her to still wear shorts in the summer. I think she was probably about forty-two at the time. She and her peers would have been agog with disbelief had one of them decided to – I don’t know – take a surfing lesson; stay in a hostel; dye their hair pink. And she wasn’t exactly the buttoned-up formal type either – I think if she’d been born twenty years later she might have run a health food store and introduced wheat-grass shots to rural BC.
Who knows? Maybe we’re kidding ourselves. Sixty is still sixty. Maybe the next generation will be saying that fifty is the new fifteen, and on and on it will go. But, I for one, am thrilled that no one thinks it’s weird that a bunch of us in our forties and fifties were sitting around in a comedy club late last night watching one of our friends do stand-up, while we laughed and drank and ate, and not one of us was worrying that we should really be home in our recliners watching the news like respectable folks.
Birthdays? Bring them on.