Turning 50 -or- I Think I’m Going Japanese

As I write this I’m on a bullet train bound for Kyoto and I can’t help but smile as we pass by Mt. Fuji who’s decided of all days to pick today to wear a hat (of clouds). It’s the first time I laid eyes on her. In fact, it’s my first visit to the Land of the Rising Sun. I came here to celebrate my 50th birthday and mark visiting Japan off my bucket list.

I’m finding it hard to resist getting all nostalgic about my birthday this year, even though I’ve never considered myself the nostalgic type. I don’t keep many things. I’m of the mind if I haven’t used it in the past calendar year I toss it. But I think I have the right outlook on life. I’m an incurable optimist grounded in reality with a dash of sarcasm and a pinch of humility. I’ve led a rich life up to this point (certainly not by any monetary measurement). In all honesty, if I died tomorrow (knock on wood that I don’t) I’d die an accomplished man. I haven’t cured cancer or written a best selling novel (yet), and although I’m still living pay check to pay check, I’ve done well. I have a nice house, two stunning children, a beautiful wife and a great career, all of which I love (although the house could use some work).

I’ve had some pretty amazing adventures during the first half of my life. I think I’ve done pretty well in the goals I’ve set for myself so far. I had a great career in the film and television industry for thirteen years and am now writing this as a police officer with another thirteen years under his duty belt. I love my job. I love my life. And despite of me turning 50, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. But I’m about ready to move on to the next chapter in my life.

I’m sure there are people out there that hate guys like me because I’m the one who always lands on his feet. Plus, I’m good at pretty much everything I try… except basketball. Regardless of my height and speed, I suck ass on the court. Two left feet. But for now, I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life (one of my goals for reaching 50). I’m an accomplished writer, musician, artist, photographer and filmmaker. Of course this depends on your definition of accomplished. I’d like to think I’m a pretty good father and husband. I’m patient, well-read and flexible (not physically). But I suck unbelievably when it comes to managing my finances. My broken philosophy? If you want it, get it and figure out how to pay for it later. I spend most of my hard-earned cash on my hobbies: photography, music, books, travel, etc. I don’t have much in the line material goods. I’ve no interest in owning a sports car, upgrading to the latest iPhone or for an extra five hundred thousand dollars; living in a house that backs onto a ravine. In fact, I think I’m pretty simple. What you see is what you get.

I think what I find most interesting about turning 50 is that I no longer give a shit about a wide variety of things. I don’t care that my hair has turned grey (or “Arctic fox” as I call it). I don’t care about the guy who just cut me off to save 7 seconds on his arrival time. I don’t care about what’s in the news. I know news happens and I’m either affected by it or not but in the end what’s going to happen will happen. I realize that the only real change I can make is the change I make to my own little corner of the world. I teach my kids the best I can, to stand up for what’s right and to NEVER let someone tell them they can’t do something. And if they’re pushed by a bully at school, they have my permission to throat punch them without consequence.

Another thing I’ve realized at 50 is that I’ve developed an allergy to drama and stupid people. And I don’t do gossip. It ends with me. While there are a few people in the physical world who inspire me, I’m more inspired by the struggles of characters I read about in books.

I fear a bit for my children. l fear of what they will learn from people who refer to themselves as social media “influencers”. I don’t think anyone on the Internet is worthy of my children’s attention. I try to teach my kids (both girls) that what you see online is an illusion and that real beauty comes from within. I try to teach them that they should love and accept their bodies the way they are right now. I teach them to be kind and when they can’t be kind, be Switzerland. And probably the most important lesson I try to teach them is to make their beds in the morning. It’s a small and simple task but if they can’t handle the small tasks they won’t be able to deal with the big ones in life.

Oh the things that go through your head at 50. More and more sobering reminders that there are fewer days ahead than there are behind (unless I make it to 101). I’ve reached the point where life takes more than it gives. But life and I have an understanding; it stays out of my way and I won’t get in its. Shit happens, it is what it is and for those who believe life is predestined, to them I ask why the hell do you look both ways when you cross the street?

I get excited about the life that’s out there that I haven’t lived yet. But for now, it’s hard to concentrate on writing while the Japanese countryside zips past me at 200mph.