I feel a flutter of trepidation in my heart. Turning 50? Seriously? Fifty is my father’s age!
A friend cautioned me before writing this article, “Do you really want thousands of Jewish Press readers to know you turned 50?” But I’ve come to realize that turning 50 is no cause for alarm.
Many friends have approached me inquiring how I’m dealing with turning 50 as if it were something to mourn or be sad about. I’ve told them I’m trying not to “deal” with it, but to appreciate it!
After all, no one wants to die young, right? We all want to keep living, and it so happens that if we keep living, the number of years we live in this world increases. But is that cause for alarm?
I know it’s a cliché, but living young at heart is really the solution. I know 95-year-old men who live like they’re in their 20s – as sharp and full of life as ever – and I know 25 year old men who are lethargic and live without ambition.
Yes, there are moments when I wish I were younger and could relive certain experiences without making the mistakes I did as a youngster. But I try to limit my longing for the past and generate instead a drive to be better in the future.
Turning 50 inspires some vital, if sobering, thoughts as well. I’ve become increasingly aware that I’m older than many of the people I meet and work with. I’m older than most of the people I see shopping, older than many of the doctors I occasionally visit, older than some of the rabbis I confer with.
And the most startling thought is that turning 50 means that my remaining years in this world are likely fewer than the number of years I’ve already lived. Not too many people, after all, live to be 100.
But this thought should make me and anyone else turning 50 more energetic, not less. If the candle is getting shorter, how much more must we try to take advantage of the years we have left. How many times do we tell ourselves, “I’ll learn that sefer when I have time” or “I’ll fix that middah when I get around to it”? Let’s face it: If we haven’t achieved with these goals until now, when exactly are we going to “get around to it”?
Nothing happens when we “find the time.” Things only happen when we make time for them.
Chazal tell us, “Don’t say, ‘When I have time, I will learn’ for perhaps you will not have the time” (Avos 2:5). When we don’t make time for important things right now, we demonstrate that they aren’t so important to us after all. For we always find time to do the things we know absolutely must get done. The only question is what we put into the “absolutely must get done” category.
With time ticking, especially at middle age, we must try to put all of those “One day I’ll get around to it” items into a more solid and immediate “bucket list.”
Chazal tell us that at 50 we receive the ability to give advice (Avos 5:25). It’s not that we suddenly receive a magical power; rather, it appears Chazal mean that a 50-year-old – who’s lived longer for five decades now and has a good amount of insight and life experience – should seek out ways to give advice.
That doesn’t mean dispensing unsolicited advice; rather, it means looking around a little more and seeing where we might be of some assistance to guide younger people to be successful. So for my first foray into this age of advice, allow me to share a vital skill for living: There’s nothing as important in life and for one’s happiness as to truly and honestly thank Hashem and count one’s blessings.
It’s a cliché, but doing it makes life full of Hashem’s caressing. The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said it so well. A Jew wakes up in the morning and immediately thanks Hashem for being alive in saying Modeh Ani. “Before we think, we thank!” he eloquently declared.
So, thank You, Hashem Yisbarach, for my first 50 years. You have been super kind to me throughout them all. I hope I have used the years well and I daven for many, many more years of great growth and avodas Hashem. I may be 50, but I’m not “over the hill” as long as I keep climbing.