“Youth is a gift of nature, but age is a work of art.” — Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
Recently, I had a birthday, but it was pretty uneventful. There was no big party, no piles of gifts, just fun greetings from friends on social media and some cake and wine. I have a good friend who has a birthday just four days after mine, so we usually do something together. While every birthday matters, I only want to do something big for the “significant” birthdays as I get further along.
Birthdays that are also milestones are the most fun. When I was little, it was turning 10 years old because “double digits” meant you weren’t a baby anymore; you were a big kid. Then it was 16 because I could drive, then 18 meant I could vote, and of course, all the milestones after that. The hits keep coming, too, so I have my sights set on the next big waypoint, 2024.
That will be my 60th birthday, and while I’m OK with getting older (we cancer survivors are like that; we don’t mind a bit), it’s a little daunting. Sixty years. All those years of learning and growing, the screw-ups along the way, the victories, the laughs, and so much more. Hopefully, by the time it rolls around next November, I will get my head around it a little more.
The best way to do that is to plan a party. When I turned 50, my friend and I threw a mighty party because we were four days apart in age. We called it “A Night in 1964,” served Jell-O-mold salads and retro cocktails, and wore vintage dresses.
So now, the challenge is what’s next? Ten years on from turning 50, what does the next decade look like? There’s already a list of ideas and plans, even if it is just in my head. I’m taking my cue from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, since they always talk about how the planning for the next parade starts the day after the holiday.
So much happens in a decade, in our own lives and in history. At the beginning of the 1960s, Alan Shepard made history in the first crewed Mercury space flight, which was sub-orbital and lasted a mere 15 minutes. By the early part of the 1970s, he was playing golf on the moon.
The past 10 years have been quite a time. Two kids graduated high school, one during a pandemic. I now have a shiny new hip; I’ve had several different jobs and gigs, some good, some not so good, and the wee pug puppy that stumbled around my living room is still doing that, only she takes a lot more naps in her sunny window spot on the couch.
I didn’t fly a space mission, and the only golf I played was on a course with a miniature windmill, but still, there was quite a bit of progress. It’s fascinating that as we go through the years, we don’t always register the changes, but when you look at a large chunk of time, in a “how it started, how it’s going” kind of way, there’s a lot to see.
Perhaps the theme for my 60th should be “I’m Still Standing.” Rather than re-living whenever I got knocked down or messed something up, I could launch into a chorus of “Unstoppable” by Sia and pretend I’m Wonder Woman. Well, that might be a little much, but I want a gathering of friends and family around, not because it’s all about me, but because I’d be lost without my precious people.
The coming year will be a time for me to look forward to what’s to come. Looking back is OK occasionally, but I don’t need to know what’s already happened; I was there for it. I’d much rather anticipate all the “what’s next” moments. It’s time to turn from being young(er) to becoming a work of art. I can’t wait.
Brenda Kelley Kim has lived in Marblehead for 50 years, and is an author, freelance writer, and mother of three. Her column appears weekly.