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My high school classmates and my college classmates almost all turn 50 this year along with me.  It is an opportunity to go back and look at our lives and reassess our successes and failures, to re-examine our choices and rethink our goals.  I have had many discussions with friends from way back that fall into just this range of topics.  

Why is it that in years ending with -0s we do this to ourselves?  Some of us are suddenly letting themselves realize this wasn't really what we had planned when we hit the adult world.  Some of us are realizing that the compromises and choices led us to a place we hadn't really expected but that is pretty much okay.  But all of us are thinking over these forks in the road we have passed.  

Without sharing the particular stories my friends tell (they are, after all, stories that belong to other people), their positives and negatives confirm for me that I am pretty satisfied with what has gone on so far.  I don't have a husband (or partner of any kind) but I enjoy having private space at the end of the day.  I don't have children but that is usually okay, too.  I never had that biological clock kick in and being responsible for someone else is very frightening.  It also means that my schedule is my own and I can travel to take care of my parents when they need me.  

I have been thinking about my past and future, my friends and work, this weekend.  I woke up Friday morning, after a late spring/early summer spent in dorm rooms at various conferences, and said "There is too much clutter in this bedroom" and decided to do something about it.  Follow me past the orange croissant and I'll tell you a bit about why this has been a really good way to celebrate my fiftieth birthday.  Cleaning?  No, really!

I have lived in this house for 16 years.  The boxes that had piled up in my room don't go back that far, but the bills did go back more than a decade.  I have filled five bins of shredded material.  There have also been old expired medications, doctor's visit reports (physical therapy directions for when I was recovering from a broken ankle, and test results back when my glucose was much lower, sigh), Christmas cards and a gift card for a cat health magazine from a wonderful woman who is now sadly lost from us.  There was a note on one of those free Humane Society cards from my also-deceased aunt, who had cats when I was little and wrote about them in multiple letters to my mom which always fascinated me as we had no warm blooded pets, just fish of various sorts.  

This is like writing a biography of a scholarly life from the detritus of that life.  It is interesting what I have chosen  to save, both short term and longer term.  I have shredded almost all my receipts from my trips to Rome and Venice (2000 and 2006, respectively) but have found it really hard to give up on the various receipts and flyers from a trip to Istanbul right at the turn from 1999 to 2000.  That was a magical trip.  And I love walking up the hill to stand in front of Haghia Sophia after dark, for the last call to prayer, to watch the seagulls circling the minarets of the Blue Mosque.  The cold and damp evening air, the smell of coal fires, and roasted chestnuts, all are part of Istanbul in December.  The menu for the New Year's Eve dinner that year is something I cannot throw out.  

Another thing I can't discard is a small flyer from the J. Peterman catalogue advertising their reproduction of the "Heart of the Ocean" necklace from Titanic.  I just gave a talk a couple of weeks ago on the Titanic and how it has been interpreted in each successive decade; I have a lot of Titanic books.  One of my first in my collection is one from my mother and this was the start of my post-graduate school investigation of the Titanic wreck.  That culminated in a scholarly article in the festschrift for my graduate supervisor whose great uncle (or similar relation) went down on the ship.  I will put this advertisement in a book in my collection to refind it several years from now.

Scattered in the boxes I have emptied have been a series of business cards for me and for other people.  Mine trace my advancing academic rank, and the move from one building to another.  Those of others are an interesting assortment of people I have met at conferences, book representatives, tour guides and museum professionals as well as antique dealers and rug merchants, book binders, and print sellers.  There are photos of me reading at a couple of AP sessions, an old passport photo from back when I still had a curly perm, some pics my mother took when she traveled to Alaska on a cruise, a polaroid of Efrat, my late lamented orange pootie, and one of a couple of students on a study abroad trip I led to Cairo.  

There are syllabi for courses I have taught and directions for various experiences I have had -- how to meet a limousine driver at the Philadelphia Airport and where I was going to stay at the University of Ghana.  The script for a play that was translated from a medieval text by a friend for which I played the lead at a women and rhetoric conference, my one visit to Minneapolis, is in the most recent box.  

I reread a couple of really warm and moving letters from friends I have only met since I came to my small town in Missouri.  Those I am keeping.  You couldn't make me throw them away.  We can choose to measure our lives in the friends we have made and that makes me amazingly rich.  

I have been fortunate that my foundation, my parents and brother, are wonderful and supportive people.  There have been challenges (problems in grad school and a supervisor who really didn't want me here when I started) but I have been so lucky generally it is amazing to me.  I have not pushed myself as much as some of my friends from school, but I have learned really exciting things and still enjoy my job after 21 years.  I look forward to the next 20, which will bring me to 41 years in this job, the length of time that my Dad taught at his university before he retired.

The biggest problem I have had over the past few years is that my body thinks I am 50.  In the last ten years I have torn my Achilles tendon and cartilage in my left knee, have gotten the warning that I am closer to Type 2 Diabetes than I should be, and just in the last six months ruptured discs in my lower back.  That may make getting to 70 or older more challenging than I would like it to be, but again it isn't too impossible so far, and I have the insurance and good medical care that should help me get there.  

The idea that I have 20 more years ahead of me in the working world makes me a bit nervous.  The pollsters could poll me and I would say it is very possible we are on the wrong track as a country.  I believe it is very important to hold on to the future as it really needs to be better.  We need to shake off this awful fear of spending the money that is necessary to get a country that has a decent safety net, good affordable education at elementary, secondary, and higher education levels.  

I have been voting since I cast an absentee ballot for John Anderson in 1980 in Kansas (it is the only time I have not voted for a Democrat for the presidential ticket).  I have been fortunate to have an occasional Democrat representing me.  In Missouri we have often had pretty decent Democratic governors (although I am still missing Mel Carnahan), and occasionally there have been good people in other positions, although we were hurt really badly by the 2010 sweep.  Although I will always be a Kansan (Jayhawker) at heart, Missouri isn't a bad place to live, and it occasionally goes into the blue column, which is a benefit of not living in Kansas anymore.  

All in all, the past fifty years have been pretty good.  I am nervous about the future, but it is coming, and I have faith that there is a possibility of it being better than the past.  There was that Atlantic article about whether one can have it all -- it depends on what "all" means.  In very traditional terms for a woman it is having a husband, having a job, having kids.  I have one of those, a really satisfying (if at times frustrating) career, but I have friends whom I care about deeply, a family who are great, and pride and satisfaction in what I do, both in work and outside of it.  As I said, all in all, this has not been a bad life.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tip jar (38+ / 0-)

    Please forgive me for a rather self-referential diary today.  It is a big day and a weird one as well.  In some ways it seems as though it should be a bigger day for my parents (I am their first born child) than it is for me myself.  

  •  Happy Birthday! (11+ / 0-)

    Enjoy your day and the turn of the odometer!

    "For what profit a man, if he gain the world, but has to pay taxes on it?" -ontheleftcoast, The Book of Paul

    by MsGrin on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 11:03:23 PM PDT

  •  Congratulations! (13+ / 0-)

    I turn 57 this week. I wish I could say it gets easier, but I'm a truthful person.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 11:16:31 PM PDT

  •  Happy Birthday and many more (8+ / 0-)

    Sounds like a pretty full life thus far.  May the next 50 years be even fuller.

  •  It appears (11+ / 0-)

    that we share not only a birthday but are the same age.

    It is funny that life has gone full circle for me. My first career was as a farmer. I gave it up years ago only to find myself through twists of life back where I began.

    I have made many mistakes over the years and made some decisions that were in retrospect nearly brilliant,

    I would agree that there are days I feel my age my knees ache or my shouler has a hitch. But when I look at some of my ol friends many are falling apart so my life of manual labor has in many ways given me the gift of good health and a strong body.

    I wish you many new aventures in your next half of a century. I have to wonder what amazing things we will see.

    It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

    by PSWaterspirit on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 11:33:32 PM PDT

  •  Happy Birthday: you just got your identity stolen. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, jlms qkw, weck

    Name + birth date = identity theft.

    Publishing both in the same place is one of the most dangerous things you can do online.  Publishing date of birth at all is dangerous, because it is trivially simple to link it to your name.  

    Identity theft rings use software that looks for mentions of "birthday" and "DOB" and similar language, and then looks for names.   "Happy birthday" postings online often encourage other people to chime in and post their own birthdays.  This creates what's called a target-rich environment.

    I would seriously suggest deleting this diary.

    And everyone else who reads this: PLEASE do not make the same mistake.  Identity theft can fuck up your life bigtime.  

    Don't post your birth date, ever, for any reason.   The gratification of getting a bunch of "happy birthdays!" from other people only lasts a few hours.  The painful consequences of getting your identity stolen last for years.  

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 11:37:49 PM PDT

    •  Ummmm (7+ / 0-)

      My user name is not my name.  But thanks for worrying about me.

      •  sorry for being harsh about it... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        4mygirls, Margd, cassandracarolina, weck

        .... but it's truly one of the biggest risks in town, and it can happen very quickly.  

        And since your username looks like it could have been your legal name, I figured it was reasonable to pull a fire alarm rather than use a more low-key headline on my comment.

        Also there's the risk that others will see the diary and jump in by posting their own birthdays, creating the target-rich environment scenario that attracts ID thieves like a cake at a picnic attracts bees.  

        I deal with cybersecurity issues as part of my job (PBX eng.), and the cost & pain-in-the-ass factor for clients who have gotten hacked is significant.  ID theft is worse because it attaches to the person rather than to a device that can be secured.  Everyone in any related field: computer networks, information technology, hosted services, etc., knows about these risks, and the information needs to be more widely known.  

        If it was up to me, ID thieves, online scammers, spammers, hackers, cybersaboteurs and cyberspies, and even domain squatters, would all become a major priority for law enforcement.  But in a country with the highest murder rate in the industrialized world, LE has more urgent matters to deal with, so we have to be proactive about protecting ourselves.

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 12:45:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  umm (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          lets not scare people here unnecessarily. Identity theft is a real problem and people need to be careful.  But DOB and a name is not enough to have your identity easily stolen.

          Hell there are databases open to everyone with hundreds of millions of DOB and names. name+dob does not equal identity theft.  Its a start but they would need more.  

          SS number is the core piece of information you need to protect .

          Bad is never good until worse happens

          by dark daze on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:59:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  This is some pretty potent stuff that you are (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, TomP, koosah, weck

    passing around on your big five-o.  

    I am 51 and just did a scan over your diary and quickly recc'd it.  What I saw about the stuff, the trips, and the receipts really hit home, and your writing is great.

    I think part of your survival mechanism includes these self assessment milestones; the zeroes may have some deeper symbolic roots.  They are circular in nature and are an easy to remember stopping place?  

    I will be reading and rereading throughout the day.  

    Happy Birthday and thanks for the great read.

    It gets on my nerves, and you know how I am about my nerves...

    by ciganka on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 12:09:57 AM PDT

  •  Enjoy your 50s, Annette (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    texasmom, annetteboardman, weck

    From the mid 60s, 50 looks young! In fact, I'd say the 50s are especially good.

    Eliminate tax breaks that stimulate the offshoring of jobs.

    by RJDixon74135 on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 03:31:59 AM PDT

  •  Bleargh. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buffie, koosah, annetteboardman, weck, Maudlin

    Yeah, seems I spend my life wondering 'how the hell did I wind up like this'?

    I'm trying to undo at least part of it now to help relieve some of the chronic stress on my body by using some acute stress to drop weight faster than I should through the medically dubious encouragement of gluconeogenesis.  (ie, I cut carbs to the ground so that my body would have to scavenge fats from tissue to keep my blood sugar elevated enough to carry the proteins I was eating into my cells.)  

    Of course, this leaves a lot of extra particles floating around in my blood that my kidneys can't keep up with as they filter it, so I'm spilling out protein and probably sugar out in my urine, which draws out more water with it, which shoves me even faster towards dehydration.  So coffee is out, and I'm needing to drink more as well.  Stressing the liver and kidneys like mad, to boot, so things like tylenol and alcohol are definitely out of the picture.

    Still, it's Christmas time that I get back together with old friends, and I'd love to astonish them this year by showing up a hundred pounds lighter.  Love to get my house a couple hundred pounds lighter as well, by dumping boxes of old bills and 20 year old homework...

  •  Happy almost - Birthday. (4+ / 0-)

    I'm from the Elizabeth Warren and Darcy Burner Wing of the Democratic Party!

    by TomP on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:14:51 AM PDT

  •  50 is the new 30! (5+ / 0-)

    Many more to you. I found that turning 40 was much more traumatic. Creaky joints are no fun-the only thing I can recommend is activity. Walking is essential. I read a wonderful line in a novel that getting older is like going to medical school one chapter at a time. Too true!

    "Well Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?"

    by buffie on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:22:25 AM PDT

  •  I turned 50 last November. (4+ / 0-)

    It still sounds weird to say that.  I am still actively pursuing a propaganda campaign within my own head to sell myself on the idea that it has been GREAT to turn fifty.  Unfortunately, I am such a skeptic and non-consumer that I am a really tough sell for any kind of advertisers, even myself!  LOL.  

    I was the last of my parents' 5 kids to turn 50, BTW.  Neither of them were still alive to witness the event and none of my siblings even facebooked me a greeting that day (or since).  That sounds like I am being "poor me" but it's not meant to be.  It's just one more factor that helps me resist internalizing the reality of being fifty.  

    Happy Birthday!  Welcome to the big kids' table!  :^D      

    "When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." Dom Helder Camara

    by koosah on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:26:43 AM PDT

  •  HBDTY! (6+ / 0-)

    HBD Dear Annette,

    Trust me, this is better than if were there to sing it for you.  ;-)

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:29:57 AM PDT

  •  Wishing you a wonderful birthday. (6+ / 0-)

    This is a great diary. I have lived in the same house for 27 years. We bought the house when Son 1 was a baby. He is now 27 and married and a PhD. Time flies. In addition to all the bits and pieces from my archaeological career and travels, I have all the bit and pieces from my kids' lives--report cards, drawing, concert programs. I can't even imagine trying to clean this place out.

  •  I truly hope you enjoy this year. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    texasmom, annetteboardman, weck, Maudlin

    I remember my 50th B'day. I felt like I was sitting pretty well. While not rich by most standards, I was buying a home, had a fantastic job paying more than I had ever made. I had just broken up with a woman who I felt had been dragging me down while at the same time becoming closers to a very old and good friend. I had a wonderful dog, home, pardner, job and even some money put back for those rainy days. I reflected on all my missteps and mistakes over the yrs, and felt wonder that I had come to this point in spite of every thing.

     Then came the next ten yrs. I won't bore you with the details. Let me just impress upon you how important it is to enjoy those wonderful moments you talked about and to enjoy every day as if you knew it would be one of your most enjoyable days.

    "the government's role should be to uplift, enlighten, educate and ennoble the citizen, not oppress them with taxation and intrusive laws," Gatewood Galbraith, Historic Marijuana Advocate, aka "The Last Free Man In America," RIP 1-3-12

    by SmileySam on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 06:03:11 AM PDT

  •  We're poison, you know that? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, Maudlin

    Mature single women, generally, are toxic to the interests of the status quo. It's why we're so roundly vilified, it's why there is so much ageism and sexism.

    Thanks for the diary.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 06:05:51 AM PDT

  •  I turn 50 tomorrow. (5+ / 0-)

    I would have voted for Anderson (only non-Dem on a presidential ticket for me too) but failed to register in LA before leaving for college, and missed the deadline to register in MA to vote there. No interwebz to help with that information. ;-)

    I was at a party last night where my hosts and the guests asked me to talk about each of my "0" decades: me at 10, me at 20, me at 30, me at 40, proposals for my 50th.

    I had the most to say about my 10th year. I had an excellent 5th grade teacher who introduced his students to art and food and history and literature (he read us Saki and Thurber short stories after lunch every day, and took weeks out of the set curriculum to show is his holiday slides of Provence, Pompeii and Herculaneum, and made clear his disdain for the saccharine writings of Paul Gallico).

    Each successive decade had less detail and less incident; thinking about 40 was actually a bit depressing because all I did was work! I am sure there were discoveries there of the quality and magnitude of my 5th grade life, but the wax tablet of my mind and experience was already so full, they left less impression.

    It was an interesting exercise :-)

  •  A very happy BD, annetteboardman (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, weck, Maudlin

    I'm a few years ahead of you far, so good.  At 50, I was worried about 2 kids in college and the possibility of empty nest syndrome.  Never happened, so I'm glad I didn't worry about it too much.

    Mostly our house is filled with books and music - recordings and a ton of sheet music - which I try to straighten and dust several times a year.  A friend mentioned seeing a book about decorating around large book collections and I think I need to find that one.  

    Have a great 50th year!

    The truth always matters.

    by texasmom on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:59:52 AM PDT

  •  For my 50th birthday, I threw myself a big party! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And I will do it again when I turn 60;  way too much work cleaning up to do it more often than that!  Concratulations!

    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.

    by weck on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 09:02:39 AM PDT

  •  Lovely. (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks for sharing.

    We should get together for dinner in Lawrence if you're down this way...


    Republicans chap my ass


    by Marc in KS on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 06:35:25 AM PDT

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