“History is not what happened, but what survives the shipwrecks of judgement and chance.” – Maria Popova
L… 50… fifty… five-oh… 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
Or: MCMLXIX–MMXIX – which is shorthand for “holy shit, doesn’t fifty years go by really, really fast?!”
How does one capture that? The passage of time. The ephemeral experience of existence in a Universe driven by natural laws, but measured by the measly human system of time?
Way back, ten years ago, I marked my fortieth with a blog post, “Moon Child”:
I’m proud of the writing. I’m also ashamed of it. Truth be told, not a lot has changed in ten years. Oh, a lot has HAPPENED… but not a lot – certainly not enough (loaded word, I know, but roll with it) has…changed.
And of course, as with any assessment, the conclusions arrived at are pretty dependent on the scope. I can sit here, frustrated with what I haven’t fixed, addressed, or improved upon over the past ten years, as my forties come to a close; or, I can widen, and reflect on what, if anything, have I learned from a half-century on terra firma?
And that is… what, exactly?
There are very few absolutes. Gravity. And death. Everything else is frameworks – and by frameworks I mean a system of beliefs, habits, cultural myths – a story – that has been built up over decades or millennia. Money is a framework; a human invented mirage that consumes us. Gender is a framework. Race is a framework.
We go through life following the signposts set down by our culture. We experience and express through the limits of language. The older I get, the more I grapple with the dissonance between existence – what being a living, breathing biological entity is, and “life” – the multiple layers of frameworks that shape our perceptions and expectations.
Every day, I awake with the anxiety of what I haven’t become; the teaching career that never materialized; the documentary I never fully finished; the vacant space next to me in bed.
I know. They say it’s good to have goals. Well, at fifty I got plenty. And I will continue to “fight the good fight”, but today, I’m going to work hard to keep the regret-monsters at bay and give myself “grace space” to celebrate merely making it this far. It’s farther than many have the chance to make.
Today, I’ll revel in having survived the shipwrecks of judgement and chance.