Well, that wasn’t so bad. I kind of thought it would be tougher to spit that out than it was. Let’s do it again: I’m 50. Yeah, no problem at all.
I half-expected my fingers to crumble to dust as soon as they made contact with my keyboard, or a cloaked figure with a scythe in his rancid, skeletal hand to guide me to my next chapter. As a kid, the mere thought of a human being living to be 50 years old was on par with a creature inhabiting Loch Ness, or a vegetable that tasted good without copious amounts of fried batter and ranch dressing drowning out its inherent ickiness.
But now that I’m here, 50 doesn’t seem to be all that bad. I mean, it beats the alternative, right? You know, NOT turning 50 would be a significantly worse option. When my two possibilities are reaching 50 or not reaching 50, well, I select 50 — 50 out of 50 times.
That’s not to say this milestone hasn’t brought a little angst and concern as it approached. Watching my former classmates hit the number over the past year has hammered home the inevitability that 50 was on a steamrolling collision course with my mind and body. There was a faint hope in the back of my mind that someone would develop a mass-produced time machine that could transport me back to 1985 before this day came, but, alas, no dice.
So, I hit 50, defying predictions made for my inevitable mortality by priests, teachers, coaches, neighbors, Christian Brothers, parents and random people on street corners who suggested I’d never make it to 30 at the pace I was going. Granted, that pace has slowed from hare to tortoise over the years, but you get the picture. None of this was ever guaranteed.
With a ton of appreciation for making it to this point, and some back and knee pain that is now being worn as a badge of honor, I’m taking a little time to reflect on these first 50 years, and maybe teach myself what I’ve learned to be truly important over the years as I’ve gained a certain level of wisd... What was I saying?
Regardless, here we go for a little stroll down a hazier and hazier memory lane:
• I played a ton of sports growing up — organized, pick-up ball, by myself, with a friend, what have you. Yes, there were definitely moments when I let it consume me way too much, and I dropped the proverbial ball on other things that I should have been focusing on at the time, but, looking back, I got a lot out of playing sports. I made friends who had common interests, learned to take tough instruction from coaches, discovered the importance of working with others on a shared goal, realized that working hard can make you better at whatever you’re doing and got a lot of exercise. It’s why I’m now proud to help out with local organization Ball4All, and their mission to provide access to sports to all families, regardless their economic situation.
• I mentioned how I made friends with people playing sports, and I can’t stress enough how thankful I am for all the friends I have made over the course of my lifetime, at every stop along the way. If I was going to offer young Darin any advice for his future, besides, “There is no logical reason you should mouth off to that guy who looks like he can bench-press Indonesia,” it would be, “Don’t take your friends for granted. Be there for them, and they’ll most likely be there for you.”
• I went to war. We won. It still sucked.
• I didn’t always appreciate it growing up, but I was very fortunate to be raised in the home I was. We teased each other, yelled, fought, loved, played, supported, and, did I mention, teased?
• Over the course of my career, I was a journalist in California, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Connecticut and Delmarva. I can tell you a million wonderful things about each of these locations, and a million things I didn’t like. The most telling thing I can say is that this is where I chose to make my “forever home,” and this is where I plan to raise my daughter. It’s not the ocean that keeps me here. It’s the people. The older I’ve gotten, the more I appreciate that just about everything is about “the people.”
• I find myself saying “Back in the day” and “Whatever happened to...” more than Wilford Brimley in a Quaker Oats commercial. I also find myself making jokes about Wilford Brimley in Quaker Oats commercials.
• My wife and daughter are the best things that have ever happened to me, and that includes the Baltimore Orioles winning the 1983 World Series. To be fair, though, the 1983 Baltimore Orioles have never criticized the sounds I make on chili night or told me I’d never be a beautiful princess because I don’t have any hair, so it’s a closer call than you’d think.
• Hitting 50 can make one take stock of his or her life, question the decisions of the past and search for new avenues in the future. But, really, I just want to be able to find my glasses in the morning and remember what I was talking about...
Did I tell you that I just hit 50?