What a relief it was to finally hit the big five-O

RACHEL STEWART
Last updated 07:30 26/11/2012
birthday stand
Hitting the big 50.

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OPINION: Last week I turned 50. That's fifty. Five-O in Hawaii. L in Roman numerals.

As with Latin, seen as orally defunct but still historically influential, I, too, am resisting the urge to relegate myself to obsolescence. Indeed, I imagine I'll be even more trouble than I'm worth as I coast on through the Third Age.

I have company. Many of my friends turned 50 this year. We were also joined by Demi Moore, Tom Cruise, Ralph Fiennes, Jon Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks and Jodi Foster, to name but a few of the 62 crowd.

From a womb with no view I emerged. John F Kennedy was president of the United States and one year later, on my first birthday, he was killed. Logically, I have no memory of that, but I feel as if the day was imbued in my being like some form of osmosis.

This may help explain why I am given to the occasional Tourette's syndrome-like outbursts of words such as "country", "ask not" and "my fellow Americans".

Mixed emotions come with 50. At 40, I had a rockin' big hooley and invited all and sundry. There was dancing and speeches, eating and drinking, mirth and merriment. To this day, friends still talk about it as one of the best soirees ever.

I look at the photos sometimes and particularly fondly at three good friends. They are vibrant, happy, alive and completely unaware of the struggles and sadness ahead as they find themselves fighting for their lives and losing.

Their laughing, youthful images frozen forever in time sharpen my appreciation of having made it to here, despite the usual and predictable mid-life angst that comes with it.

There are also snapshots of outwardly happy marriages that haven't lasted the duration.

I see friendships I've lost, and people I rarely meet any more because of distance and circumstance. I see family who cared about me then, but now appear to not care less, for reasons they haven't shared.

I also see friends in those photos who still regularly sit upon my couch and tell me their news, dreams and regrets. They are with me at 50 and I can only speculate whether we'll still be doing the same at 60.

I didn't have a party this time. I spent a quiet day with my partner, a relative produced a surprise carrot cake and, that evening, I kayaked around the port on a gorgeous, cloudless evening.

One-on-one time with meaningful others was preferable to a knees-up, and the relief of finally hitting the big number was very welcome. The buildup is far, far worse than the arrival.

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It's just a number, I know, but it comes with a fairly loaded pedigree.

Life is clearly not a game of two halves any more, but of three quarters. Most likely, I have lived more years than I have left.

Conversely, and just as everyone tells you, it's true that I am not terribly bothered by what others think of me.

Also, like many other 50-year- olds, I am parentless, which brings its own bittersweet form of liberation, and very close to being entirely free of the clutches of menopause, if the diminishing hot flushes are anything to go by.

(Truth be told, I have been "paused of men" for a very long time, if you get my drift.)

Experience at life doesn't go amiss either. I despise this current Government more than any before it. Having a 50-year data set to work from gives me a firm baseline to judge from.

I have played in the New Zealand landscape long enough to know that we are well along the path to changing it irrevocably.

As a society, we continually show a love of money over all else and an absence of respect for the natural world, of which we are a part, believe it or not.

What else? Oh yeah, my body ain't what it used to be and it takes longer to warm up and get going than it ever did before. But, hey, it still goes and that's a good thing.

So while my knowledge has grown with every passing year, the other side is that, like all of us, the less I understand. Things I have completely trusted - institutions, philosophies and people - can turn on a dime.

Unfortunately, by not trusting, it's very easy to turn everyone and everything into a liar.

Before I start chanting and go all Buddhist on you, let me say I'm glad of the 50 years above ground and hope for a few more yet.

I'm nosy about where this country, humanity and the planet are headed and, try as I might to be detached, I care about that.

Which reminds me of the Buddhist trying to vacuum in the corner. He couldn't do it because he had no attachments.

- Taranaki Daily News

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