This is not what I expected as I rounded the corner for my final run at 60. Maybe I should have. These years that end in zero have tended to make a big splash.
The year I turned 20, I sat in a journalism class at Samford University thinking about the young man who was stalking me and the college administration that was disbanding the journalism department because the campus newspaper had tried to report news the administration didn’t want reported. It came to me that moving to a new state and a new college while only 20 credits away from graduating was my next best step. Within two months, I had moved, dragging my best friend with me and changing the course of our lives.
The year I turned 30 was the year I bought my first house, telling myself my future was settled despite how deeply unsettled I was in my spirit. It took two more years for my life to catch up to my spirit and launch the next life makeover.
The day I turned 40, my mother was admitted to the hospital for the final time. When she was released, she came to stay with me until she died six weeks later in a tiny bedroom down the hall from my office.
Then there was 50. Most of what happened isn’t my story to tell; it was a year of mental illness and divorce.
So why have I been expecting something less than fireworks as I approached this birthday ending in zero?
I’ve been preparing for this milestone birthday for a year now, looking forward to it as a time of expanding possibilities, new adventures.
And now for reality. The year promises to be my year of downward mobility. Maybe it will be a year of austerity that will land me on some sunnier shore at 61, debt-free, nest lined. Or maybe it will be the start of a long slide into poverty that I will share with many of all ages and backgrounds in this post-prosperity era. I remember helping Aunt Nancy pack up and move from the roomy brick ranch she had shared with her husband before his death. Her resources had dwindled and she had no choice but to walk away from the life she loved. She started in a three-room senior apartment. From there, she went into a shared room in a Huntersville nursing home. I wonder if she ever stopped thinking of her moves as a temporary and reversible adjustment.
My first impulse is to hide what is happening. Then I woke up a few days ago at 3:30, realizing I’ve been elected to tell this story as it is playing out.
Sixty will be momentous, just not in the ways I’ve tried to create. No matter how it plays out, even if my economic opportunity shrinks in ways I never imagined, I intend to make 60 big. Stay tuned. I’m going to make a little racket along the way. I will not go gentle.