---- — I celebrated another birthday a couple of weeks ago. It was sort of a milestone birthday, I guess. I used to just consider the usual milestones — 1, 13, 16, 18, 21, 30, 40, 50, 60, etc. But a guy I met once told me that after you reach 50 every five years is a milestone birthday and he called 55 a “speed limit” birthday.
I had never heard it called that before and thought it was cute. So, that’s what I celebrated — the “speed limit” birthday — and as I thought about that it made me wonder if that meant I should go faster, slow down or maintain my current speed.
I thought about each option and here’s what I surmised:
• Going faster — Once you start hitting these mid-life birthdays you are confronted with the reality that life really is short and yours is getting shorter. Not that there are any guarantees for anyone and at 55 one could reasonably expect and hope to live another 30 years. But being confronted by that realization one might tend to start living a little larger, so to speak. That could include changing careers, traveling more, taking up new hobbies or working through a “bucket list” of things to do before leaving this earth. Combine that with a serious health scare and/or the loss of a loved one and that sense of “it’s time to put the pedal to the metal” is even more magnified.
• Slowing down — One might feel like it’s time to start winding down, think about retiring, de-cluttering and simplifying their life and home and not worrying quite so hard. You could realize that you own enough “stuff” and rather than continue to climb the corporate ladders chasing the almighty dollar it’s time to journey toward more meaningful pursuits, such as volunteering or spending more quality time with loved ones. Or you could start thinking about your legacy in terms of how you want to be remembered vs. what material things you would be leaving behind.
• Maintaining Speed — Maybe it’s time to set the cruise control and just keep things going at the current pace. Not make any life-altering decisions, try to be balanced. This could include speeding up when the opportunity comes to pass something that’s getting in your way and slowing down to enjoy the view now and then.
I think I’m in the “all of the above” category right now. I hit a point earlier in my life where I felt life was wasting away and while there are limitations on me I wanted to make up for what I considered “lost time.” So I traveled and I pursued dreams to the best of my abilities.
The last couple of years, however, personal losses made it harder to bounce back from life’s difficulties like I would’ve in the past and caused me to face the realization that I need to start taking better care of myself. I need to spend more time doing things that build me up, not stress me out. Even if those things don’t build my bank account, they build my life account.
So I’m coasting right now, just cruising along. I speed up when necessary and slow down when I need to refuel, catch my breath and to smell the roses. I try to maintain not only my speed but my attitude of gratitude because while things are not all like I’d like them to be, I am so very blessed in so many ways.
So the birthday itself was lower key than usual this year. I did go out to dinner and shopping with my BFF. I ended up working on my actual birthday and postponed my annual lunch with my “birthday buddy,” a tradition we’ve kept for about 15 years now. I received fewer cards through the mail because of all the Facebook greetings, which is always nice to see. Still, the cards I did receive were very special indeed.
I’ve discovered many more people who share the same birth date as me. So to all of them and all of you who may be celebrating birthdays this month, I wish you a very happy and blessed birthday — milestone or not.
Denise Fedorow is a columnist and correspondent for The Goshen News. Her column appears every other week. She’s looking forward to the re-scheduled birthday buddy lunch.