Half a Century Onward
February 17, 2017 § Leave a comment
By all rights, I should be dead now.
At 14, I found out I had Crohn’s Disease. Through most of high school, I ate nearly nothing and weighed next to nothing; 98 pounds, skinny, constantly being asked if I was anorexic (which we were just becoming aware of in the 80s), or if I had AIDS (the big new boogeyman disease of the 80s).
No one knew what Crohn’s Disease was. I mention it today, and everyone knows someone who has it. In the 80s, not so much.
My first gastroenterologist was, to be kind, an asshole. He had a Tom Selleck mustache and drove a red Ferrari, just like Magnum P.I. He fell asleep while my mom and I were talking to him during appointments. When I didn’t respond to his treatment regimen of sulfa drugs and steroids, he would simply increase the dosages of both.
For six years.
I’m pretty sure the prolonged high dose of prednisone alone did some serious damage. I know it turned me into a rage monster at times. It’s probably why I have memory problems today, and why I can’t recall most of my high school and college years.
Finally, I fired that doctor and found Dr. Alan Safdi. And he is why I am celebrating my 50th birthday today in (relatively) good health.
As I pass a half-century mark today, the thought that keeps ringing the bell of my skull is this: Have I spent my 50 years well?
Did I achieve the goals I set for myself as an idealistic twenty-something? Yes and no. I wanted to write for a living, I wanted to publish my work, and I wanted to see my name on the cover of a book.
I write for a living, but it’s corporate marketing copy, not fiction.
I saw my name on the covers of three books, but they were things I edited, and not fiction. (I’m still proud of them, don’t get me wrong; they just aren’t my novels.)
So … be careful in how you wish?
I didn’t achieve my goals — not yet, anyway. I look at Warren Ellis, who is exactly one year and one day younger than me, and I think, “Christ, I’m a slacker.”
But then I look at Bram Stoker, who didn’t publish much of anything until he was 50, and then he published Dracula. And Laura Ingalls Wilder, who didn’t publish her first book until she was 64.
And one of my favorite writers (and the inspiration for Californication’s Hank Moody), Charles Bukowski. Buck quit his postal job and started writing at 49, saying, “I have one of two choices — stay in the post office and go crazy … or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.” He finished his first novel four weeks later and eventually published thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories, and six novels.
So I guess I still have time. There are more days behind me than ahead, but I’ll make the most of the time I’m given.
The lesson, youngsters, is don’t fuck around with your time. You have less than you realize, and it blazes by in a lightning flash. Seize every day, and wring your dreams from them.
Or don’t. At this half-century mark, I’m finally realizing that it’s okay that I’ve not gotten to where I want to be yet. You know why?
Because I’ve been enjoying my life.
I’ve been gathering with friends and having fun, and loving, and sharing, and not at all regretting one single moment of not sitting alone in a room in front of a computer.
I’ve drank too much at times, stayed up too late, and spent days paying for one or the other or both. I don’t regret it.
I do have regrets, don’t get me wrong. But I regret none of the good times spent with the people I love. If I end this life with nothing more than a wealth of love, I won’t give a crap about all the books unwritten and the stories untold.
Tracy often quotes a line from The Godfather, one of her favorite films: “It’s the price you pay for the life you choose.”
Maybe this is the year I’ll write my Dracula. Or maybe I’ll pen my Little House series when I’m 64.
But if I don’t, and all I manage to do is keep the wonderful, loving people I have somehow been fortunate enough to find in this life, you won’t see me crying on my deathbed.
I’ll consider myself the luckiest old man who ever lived.
I’ve rambled enough. It’s what happens in your dotage, apparently. What I really want to say is this:
To those of you who read this crappy little blog for some reason, don’t beat yourself up because you’ve not accomplished as much as whoever you compare yourself to. It’ll happen, or it won’t. Enjoy yourself; it’s later than you think.
And to all my friends and loved ones, thank you. From the bottom of my overflowing heart, thank you. My life is richer for your love and friendship.
I hope I’ve given as good as I’ve gotten.
My cheeks aren’t as chubby, my hair is darker (and thinner), and I’m a bit taller these days. Oh, and that pump is gone, thankfully; all it ever produced is a cloud of angry wasps.