Today is my 54th birthday. Fifty-four is not that exciting a number. It doesn’t signify anything in particular. It’s not even prime. But it’s substantial. You make it to 54, you’ve lived through some things. I’ve got a few scars and I’ve earned most of them.
Like most people on the back side of 40, I can’t help but wonder sometimes if the best part of life is behind me. My right knee creaks like the cellar door in a horror movie. I wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes to pee, sometimes for no reason except my body thinks 3:30 in the morning is a fine time to get up. Every so often I find myself in a light fog, the kind I used to drift into after one too many drinks, but now it happens sober, and at random. My favorite piece of clothing is a pair of fur-lined slippers.
But one of the terrible things about life is also one of the great things about life: You never know how many days you’ve got left. Might as well shoot your shot.
Over the holidays I was re-reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “What the Dog Saw,” a collection of his New Yorker pieces. One of them was about how we think of most creative genius as emerging fully formed — Mozart and Picasso were brilliant by their teens or 20s. But other artists, like Cezanne, were late bloomers. Their best work came late in life. Down near the end of the piece, Gladwell mentions another late bloomer:
This gives me great hope, and also puts on some pressure. It’s my fifty-fourth birthday. Damn, I better get cracking.