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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 4/5/24 – Fifty-Nine

I am officially fifty-nine years old today. This is my 17th prime number birthday, according to wiki, my next (if I make it) will be 61. It is a happy birthday. I made it this far. This is an absolute miracle for a myriad of reasons. I have roughly doubled how long I anticipated to live when I was 20, which at the time was 30. Grateful I have had 59 revolutions around our home star. Far too many of the people I knew are long gone. One of the facets of aging is loss. We all go in the end, we can only celebrate who has been in our lives. Birthdays are one of those times I end up reflecting on who was around when I blew out candles on long eaten birthday cakes. I honor all those who have no more birthdays too. 

I know, I am not supposed to celebrate getting old. We are an agist society. We seem to value the virility of youth over the wisdom of age. We would prefer to be young and dumb to old and experienced. It is a curious thing if you think about it long enough. My view at this juncture is that age is a state of mind. In that sense, I am not old. I love to explore life as much now as I did as kid. A few years ago, I got an e-bike that lets me get far out into the wilds and have new experiences in nature. If aging is about the loss of possibility, it is then also about perspective. Sure, there are a lot of things I cannot do that I was able to do at age 20. At 59, the part of my brain that weighs out consequences is more fully developed and rejects a host of things that my 20-year-old brain would jump in on with both feet! It is also true that 59-year-old me can do a lot that I could dare to dream of at age 20.


Whenever I travel, I try and take at least a few hours to see or experience something new. It is a huge world filled with potential first-time experiences. I know of people half my age who stop looking for new experiences. They are old beyond their years because they have closed themselves off to the possibilities of exploration. I still have so much room to learn and grow. In that sense, I am just a moderately old kid with more latitude to travel before the supper bell.


One of the things that have come with time is the insight that I grew up in a good age. When I was a child, we were not taught to be scared of the world but rather to navigate the risks we faced. We roamed the neighborhood as kids in ways children no longer do. There was no internet and we actually talked to each other face to face. We did all sorts of things that were risky, but in hindsight we were better off growing up that way as we were more confident about what we could overcome. I am grateful for being a kid of the 70s, we were nearly feral and like many of my generation, I learned to get myself out of trouble I created for myself, which is important for adulthood.


Thinking back to that era, there was actually a gun club at my high school, and we thought nothing of kids bringing their 22s in a locked case on the school bus and then into the school. I don’t for the record think we should bring back guns in school, but there is something to be said for an era when we could trust kids. We keep our young people so safe they do not learn to navigate our less than safe world. It is unfair to them to coddle them into adulthood and leave them riddled with fear and anxiety. It is a failure of a basic function of society to not prepare kids to navigate risk, but I digress.


One thing I was known for in years gone by is maximizing birthday dinners. My record birthday month was in the 2010s and I achieved 23 birthday dinners. The pandemic changed all that. Our worlds got small, and I wished for the comradery of one dinner out with friends. Despite having fewer dinners, I have learned to cherish those I experience. Tonight, Julie and I are trying a new Indian place in NJ. I learned to love Indian food on our honeymoon in Scotland when where the picture above was taken. I am looking forward to breaking bread (or a keto alternative) with my bride this evening!


I refuse to feel bad about growing older. I say bring it on. I ache in ways I could not imagine at 20 and am told to expect more. Recovery has taught me to accept things that are facts. Aches and pains come with age. The data shows that older adult hood (which I am at the gate of looking in) can be one of the happiest times in life. It is also true that no matter what, I have fewer days ahead than behind me. Not one of those days is guaranteed to any of us. I hope that there are a lot of happy times ahead, but I also know that I have a great life and if the big dirt nap comes soon, I am still a lottery winner as long as I keep my side of the street clean and do what I can to be a good human while having some fun.


Please join me in celebrating birthdays beyond age 21, which unfortunately is the last birthday that many of us look forward to. I am grateful for the years and for so many people who have made my years so amazing. I am grateful for all of the skinned knees as well as the birthday dinners. If life had no downs, we would fail to properly appreciate those days in the sun when all is well, and we are with our people having the times of our lives. According to the internet, 59 years is precisely 21,549.75 days. I am grateful for all of them. If I get another one tomorrow, I am already a lottery winner and I am grateful for it.

What are you grateful for today?

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Beckey VanEtten
Beckey VanEtten
Apr 06

Happy Birthday Bill! This is a very inspiring and feel good way to think about aging!I am grateful for your post today as I am turning 70 this year and have had very mixed feelings about that. You have given me a different way to view that if I get that far. Thank you for that and may you have many more Happy Birthdays!


Apr 05

This is such a thoughtful and uplifting piece. Reminds me of an old Irish proverb: “Do not resent growing old; many are denied the privilege!”

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