Lea Thompson and I both turn 48 today. (Happy birthday, Lea – you probably won’t get this, so this is more for my benefit than yours.)
Also, happy birthday to the Republic of South Africa, Clint Eastwood, Brooke Shields, and all the rest. May 31 was also the launch date of the Titanic and the day the last Model T rolled off the assembly line. (I generally don’t regard the last two as omens.)
On the day I was born, John F. Kennedy was in Paris with Jackie to visit Charles de Gaulle. Here’s a contemporary radio report, compiled by the site Crooks and Liars. Fascinating listening, and has echoes of Obama’s presidency.
This isn’t one of those “landmark” birthdays, like 40 or 50, so my feelings about it are fairly ambivalent. A mixture of the solemn reminder of aging, and a cavalier dismissal of the whole thing as contrived (you’re only as old as you feel, as the cliche goes).
One thing I did do this year is to go against my introverted nature and be more proactive about celebrating the event. Rather than someone else planning something, I’ve set up a modest little celebration later today at a local steak house, and invited family to attend. (In the interest of full disclosure, the impetus was a gift card for said steak house which I want to use up before it expires. It doesn’t have an expiry date, but I’m not taking any chances.)
Like New Year’s, birthdays for me are now occasions for a bit of stock taking and possible course correction. Besides the continuing pursuit of fiction and self-employed writing in addition to my employed writing work, my list for this one includes a few new ones. Here’s a sampling.
- My retirement plan. How to make one, that is. I’ve lived as the carefree artiste and vagabond most of my life, so other than the Canada Pension Plan and a tiny five-figure RRSP from my acting days, I have nothing to look forward to. I’m certain my needs will be modest (heck, they are now) but some kind of nest egg should probably be started while I still have 17 or so years before age 65.
- Will there be a “retirement”? As lifespans increase, more and more people are experiencing a longer working life. Those who retire at traditional ages (55-65) seem to be insufferably bored and go looking for activities that amount to going back to work. In the writing profession, it’s possible to continue working as long as the brain holds out – Milton wasn’t stopped by blindness. I’ll likely want to keep writing, or working, past 65. So, it may be that I just need a backup plan should I be unable to continue, like disability insurance or an annuity. (I can feel the financially savvy among you squirming, so if you’ve got a better idea, why not put it in the comments?)
- Explore old interests. I’ve been doing a bit of pencil sketching again, something I haven’t done in years; I’ll have to post some samples at some point. I don’t read books nearly as much – some, but not as much as I’d like to. Maybe it’s a matter of actually scheduling time to read, especially considering how important regular reading is for the writer. Playing piano and writing songs are another two activities I might like to return to.
- Give travel some more thought, especially solo. Prompted by this article and this related one, and by a beloved aunt who makes semi-regular travel junkets on her own.
Some of you may be wondering, where does a relationship fit into all this? I’m single, and except for a few relationships, have been all my life. More on that in a future post, but for now, let’s say I’ve had some realizations about that, and its importance for me.
Some folks get panicky about the advancing years, which seem to speed up the older one gets. For me, it’s a mixed bag.
Sometimes I feel like a train passenger, looking out the right side train window, who can hear the other riders pointing at sights on the left side, but when I turn to look, they’re already pointing at something else on the other side. I’m more PO’d than panicky – darn, missed that too.
But as some options close with the advancing years, there’s also an odd sense of relief rather than regret. As I grow more comfortable and “set in my ways”, I no longer have a desire to pursue some goals that seemed desirable at one time. Age gives focus. I’m now more aware of what truly makes me happy, and more content pursuing those things.
Lea Thompson looks like she’s been pursuing other interests lately too – directing, appearing in musicals. I wish us both all the best.
Oh, and happy anniversary to Big Ben, who first spoke to the world 150 years ago today. Hit it, Benny boy!