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Anyone Who Says They Enjoyed Turning 50 Is A Liar

Never have I struggled so hopelessly to alter a fact of life so stubbornly resolute.

06/11/2017 1:05 PM AEDT | Updated 06/11/2017 1:05 PM AEDT
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"In an attempt to reconcile with Father Time, I went on a trip with old school friends to share the misery with a bottle of wine."

The experience of turning 50 is confronting.

The fact of the milestone explains some disconcerting physical changes. Muscles are stiffer in the morning. Golf balls fall short like someone's weighted them. Eyes read blurry.

In truth, these are minor issues and the machine that is the body still manages to deal with the trials of life without too much trouble.

But being defined by a number beginning with a five strikes a blow at one's identity. Claiming youth is now the kind of stretch best left to those of a more limber age. Genuinely young people in their twenties or thirties might talk to you with pity or reverence, but either way the invitation to kick on at the night club later is unlikely to be forthcoming.

Here was the perfect crew to explore what this sad course of events means and how on earth were we going to deal with it.

Never have I struggled so hopelessly to alter a fact of life so stubbornly resolute. I'm 50. I can hide it or not talk about it, but I can't change it.

Of course not all who have recently shared this fate deal with the issue in the same way. There are the Zen-like creatures who claim to have embraced their age, but they are liars.

There are those who enter a deep state of denial. This certainly has its attractions, but no matter how profound my self-deception I still find the truth haunts me in the small hours of the night. Not that 50 year olds are ever awake in the small hours of the night that often any more, of course.

And, there are some who play up in a glorious expression of their mid-life crisis. If I had the flamboyance and disregard for embarrassment to make this work I'd be tempted, but the truth is turning 50 has given me neither.

So, in an attempt to reconcile with Father Time, I went on a trip with old school friends to share the misery with a bottle of wine.

There is something extraordinary about friendships made in teenage years. The shared moment of life's discovery carries with it an honesty about who we really are. Affectations haven't had time to mature. The hopes, fears and dreams of the future lay us bare. Those who knew us then carry throughout life the familiarity of youth. Conversation flows.

Here was the perfect crew to explore what this sad course of events means and how on earth were we going to deal with it.

The content of our discussion did betray the difference in our lives compared with 20-years before. Then it was about life's start as the first kids arrived in the group. The energy and sacrifices required to experience the joy of parenthood were being explored. Our children totally changed our identity, but the exhausting effort meant there was no time to wallow in questions about who we were.

Now, we were talking about life's end. In the past year, three of us had lost our dads. We compared heart-wrenching choices about ageing parents and nursing homes. This clearly predictable side of life had snuck up and mugged us, completely unaware. The idea that our lives would always contain their essential cast of characters had been shattered. Only a few will witness the whole journey.

Even more sadly, thoughts turned to friends and colleagues, people far younger than I, who had already passed. They had been unfairly shortchanged in the experience of life. Through this lens experiencing a 50th birthday really was joyous, and our angst of identity a little indulgent.

Better then to move on to bucket lists and hopes for the future: the familiar discussion we'd been having since childhood.

The dreams ranged from the professional (being on a board of a listed company); to the philanthropic (setting up an NGO for textile workers in the developing world); to developing a new skill (learning to ride dressage); and to the deeply personal -- having the simple courage to change.

We had failed to predict so much of life, good and bad, that we agreed there would be no mid-term review of these dreams. Hopes provide direction and motivation, but life is about how you experience whatever the journey has to offer. Holding to account would be missing the point.

By the night's close there was joy and exuberance in a conversation which took us back to our earliest days. There was also comfort knowing that with these people it was a conversation we could have in the future, again and again.

Age has changed us to be sure. The unsettling nature of 50 still persists. But pain and experience is best handled with company. Through this very special group of peers and childhood friends we have become the witnesses of our lives.

That might just be the comfort I was looking for.

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