diamond geezer

 Friday, April 17, 2015

(if you're over 50, probably best not read this one)

It's now just over five weeks since my 50th birthday. And just over five weeks is approximately one tenth of a year. That makes my age at present approximately 50.1. Or, to view it another way, I'm now 1% of the way through my fifties. Blimey that was quick.

My fifties haven't been that different to my forties, to be honest. My body hasn't fallen apart, my hair hasn't turned grey overnight and my social life hasn't taken a nosedive. I never expected it would. I can still do everything I could before, indeed I've walked over 200 miles in the last five weeks, because completing fifty orbits of the Sun doesn't change you overnight. Indeed if I don't think about my age, my state of mind is exactly as it was previously, with me still believing I'm a bright young thing bounding through life. There's no reason to let a number hold me back, barring potentially the opinions of others, who might see a five at the start of my age and somehow jump to different conclusions.

But something has changed slightly, and that's my attitude towards the future. I blame being someone who counts things, because most people would overlook this particular numerical peculiarity. But being 50, well, it's not quite what it's cut out to be.

When you get to 50, because 50 is half of 100, it's nice to imagine that you're only about halfway through.

birth50death

We all like to think we're going to get to 100, because people do, and more people are doing, so why shouldn't we? The reality however is two decades different, with the average UK 50 year-old male expected to live to 81. Get to 81 and that average increases to 88, because actuarial probabilities are incremental like that. But in reality, your 50th birthday is more like this.

birth5081

But I'm not actually thinking 81. I'm thinking my likely life expectancy is 75, not because I'm a pessimist or anything, but because getting to 75 runs in the family. If I took after my Dad's side it'd be higher, but chats with doctors over the last few years have hinted more towards my Mum's. Nothing overly disturbing, nothing to particularly worry about, and obviously I'd be dead pleased to get further. But my subconscious has picked 75 as the age I hope to get to, and it's hard to shift that.

Two things. Firstly this means that anything due to happen after 2040 I don't expect to see. The Northern line will never get to Clapham Junction in my lifetime, and little Prince George will likely never become king. Indeed by the time you young'uns face the reality of global warming, I'll be long gone. Being 50 and childless isn't exactly conducive to long-term thinking.

And secondly, the passage of my life now stacks up like this.

birthNOW75

Compared to the average, proportionally a little more at the beginning, and proportionally a little less at the end.

And the mathematical quirk I've spotted is this, which is that my life expectancy suddenly divides into three equal parts. One third up to 25, another third up to 50, which is now, and a final third up to 75.

birth255075

That's two-thirds down, and one-third yet to come. More to the point, the amount of life I've still got to go is only half the length of the life I've already had. And blimey, when you view things this way it bucks your ideas up somewhat.

I've done tons of stuff in those first two thirds of my life, but also not done tons of stuff as well. If there are places I want to go, states of being I want to reach and aspirations I want to attain, I need to get a move on. The next twenty-five years is ages, of course, with more than enough time to do anything I put my mind to. But if I let opportunities drift, or if my health throws a curveball and reins things in, I will be missing out.

Now obviously all this proportional thinking is merely a generalisation rather than a certainty. I could get to 90, or I might not see 60, who knows. But my subconscious has settled on 75, which makes 50 the point at which the time I've had is double the time I've got left. And, bugger, seeing as I'm actually fifty point one, the time I've got left is now less than half of what I've already enjoyed.

birth  death

Seize the day, that's the unspoken message heralded by my 50th birthday. Because, whatever your age, although your life experience only ever increases, that dark blue section only ever gets smaller.


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