Turning 50

by Brian on September 8, 2010

in A Parent in Israel,Jewish Holidays and Culture

“Today I become a man.”

That’s a declaration more commonly associated with a bar mitzvah boy but, as I turn 50 today, I feel I am passing a milestone even more auspicious.

For what does one really know about being a grownup at a mere 13? Perhaps, once upon a time, that was closer to marriageable age. But today, it’s just the beginning of the turbulent teens.

At 50, however, you have decades of experience to define what being an adult really means. And if you have kids, your designation as parent – be it disciplinarian, dispenser of wisdom, or even friend – propels you far beyond the wide-eyed wonder of your own childhood.

I’ve heard the joke that 50 is the new 40 and I suppose it makes sense. I found 40 to be a mere way stop on a career train that was still full of possibility, nothing too terrifying. And 30 – despite the stigma that I would no longer be trustworthy – came and went without a hitch.

But 50 – that’s the point when you’re closer to death than birth (unless you live to be 120, tfu, tfu, tfu). Yes, it sounds overly dour, but 50 is 37 years from 13. Can I reasonably expect to outlive that difference on the other side?

And you can’t avoid the general system failures your body constantly surprises you with. I now need three pairs of glasses; standing in the audience at a recent rock concert blew my hearing out so badly I couldn’t pick up high frequencies for a week; and my memory’s not doing so well either (though I’m learning to embrace “who are you again?” as a state of being rather than an embarrassment).

Maybe all this is why I decided to eschew the birthday bashes my friends (who all seem to be turning 50 within months of each other) have been throwing of late. I wanted to do something physically challenging…while I still can. So, come April next year, we’re going as a family to Nepal to do a 10-day trek on the fabled Annapurna Circuit.

Why wait until April? Ah, that’s where it all comes back to being a bar mitzvah. The trip is not just for me – it will also be my youngest son’s 13th birthday and the Himalayan experience will be a way for all five of us to celebrate these two milestones together. And, in the lead up to that trip, we are hiking all over Israel for Aviv’s bar mitzvah – 12 tiyulim in 12 months – I’ve written about this already at length on the Israelity blog here, here, here and here.

Barbara Stauch has written a wonderful book called “The Secret Life of the Grown Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle Aged Mind.” In it, she posits that, while our facility with faces may fade over time, our abilities with pattern recognition hit their peak later in life. We’re in many ways smarter, more creative and, studies now show, happier – with 65 being the age we are most satisfied with our lives.

Ironically, when I was 13, I never had a bar mitzvah. All that Jewish stuff didn’t interest me. And now here I am, writing from Jerusalem where I’ve lived happily, as a proud and outspoken Anglo-Israeli for nearly 16 years with an unceasingly supportive family.

Truly, I have no regrets. Other than a dollop of my own teenage angst (you can read about it here), it’s been a good ride. Middle age – watch out because, today, I am a man!

A version of this story appeared yesterday on the Israelity blog.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Valerie September 8, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Happy birthday, Brian. So sorry we didn’t cross paths a few weeks ago when I was in your neighborhood, but next time, I promise. I enjoy your blog posts and read with interest to learn of your perspective on current events in Israel. Keep it up. Can’t wait to hear about the Anapurna hike!!

2 Gail (Gila) September 9, 2010 at 5:11 am

Brian, I am very impressed with your thinking and the trip that you will be taking. I have not been as adventurous since my time in Israel and Europe. Wonderful to read all about your tuyulium with your son. My son is in his last year of high school and we are trying to plan college visits so that he will know where to apply. My son has a bit of the traveling bug. As a Boy Scout on his way to Eagle, he went on a hiking trip called Philmont in New Mexico. he had a wonderful experience. I look forward to reading about your son’s tuyulium along with your upcoming trip in April.

3 Adrienne October 9, 2010 at 12:21 am

I subscribe to your blog, and today received email from feedblitz, which is normally a good thing. However, when I opened it today, it was an advertisement for viagra and other such drugs. What has happened? When I google this normal life, I get your regular blog. I have now unsubscribed to your blog to avoid these annoying ads, but I thought you might like to know.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: