I've never been big on "milestone" birthdays. When I turned 40 my wife got together a group a friends, rented a limo, and we went Vineyard hopping. That was great fun until I decided it would be a good idea to go for a little skateboard ride. That episode had a predictable ending.
I'm now 48 and will be 49 in June. For whatever reason my 50th birthday looms large in my mind. I don't think that I'm "afraid" of turning 50. That's just a date on the calendar. I think it's a fear of aging. The late 40's – early 50's seem to be another shadowy line in life. The first 20 some years of life are pretty easy. Mostly you're healthy and everything just works. Yes, there are some tragic deaths but most of those are of the accidental variety. After that, everyone starts having children. Again, some issues with miscarriages and fertility challenges which can cause a fair amount of mental anguish but the sun will shine. Might have some challenges in late 30's as your doctor starts to fuss about your weight or blood pressure. But usually not serious.
Depending on when you elected to start churning out children, the late 40's can be a real golden time of life. The early in life marriages have dissolved and the participants have re-married. Most of the marriages that are still intact are stable. People at this stage of life have developed a pretty firm sense of self and know when they're comfortable in a room. So, by now, you've usually gravitated towards people who you can stand (except for family events) and have a good time with. Again, at this age everything in your body still works ok. The ladies in the crowd might be going through some changes and the dudes are aging a bit but that stuff is largely tolerable. You can still pee standing up and sex typically has fewer consequences. If you can stay awake. (changing voices a bit)
However, the storm clouds aren't all that far off – (and I'm tempting fate here) there are a couple of friends lost to heart attacks and some cancers. Your doctor is crabbing at you about your weight or blood pressure. Cancer becomes scary as hell because it's real and largely invisible – until it isn't. I well remember thinking about aging when I got my first real job out of college. I was about 25 and thought, "holy hell. I have a work life in front of my that is at least as long as I've already been alive. That seems like a long time." Well, I'm at that finish line now.
For me, I'm still young enough that I can work all day, hit the gym and then blast over to Bad Wolf on Wednesday night, knock back a couple pints with my peeps and be square in the a.m. My crowd are all late 40's-ish and it's great. We fight about politics, pop culture and everything else and then laugh it off. Everyone's been to the show already – we've all had babies, raised (or are raising) kids, bought a new car and took a bath when we sold it, bought a house, had low points and high points and all of that other jazz. It makes for an easy crowd to slip in to.
But I worry. I worry what it's going to be like to age. In fact, it occurs to me that the preceding paragraphs are really an unconscious rendering of the reality that it is relatively easy to slip into middle-age. I think it gets a lot harder from here on out.