My fiftieth birthday is ten days away.  Most people celebrate birthdays, especially “milestone” ones such as this.  They’re ticked off as they go and used as causes for celebration.  It’s great for anyone who chooses that path, but unless someone has something in store for me that I’m not at all aware of?  For me, it’ll simply be “Friday,” and nothing more.  And I’m just fine with that.

Why?  Because I honestly didn’t expect to make it this far.

My youth was rife with mishaps that could’ve killed me, and did cut the lives of a lot of my friends short.  Recklessness in more ways than I can count, the kind that comes with feeling bulletproof at a time when you’re anything but.  I never touched an illegal drug in my life simply because I knew in the back of my mind, as it was I was already tempting fate more than I should back then.

Later years brought various health issues that should’ve killed me on countless occasions, including a heart attack at the ripe old age of 32; but they were and continue to be dealt with, thanks to modern medicine and surgery.  And though the recklessness of youth may be gone, I’ve still a list of accidents too numerous to mention.  One however but for fate’s intervention would have surely ended my life five years ago.

I simply didn’t expect to be here.  Since at least August 23, 2002?  I know I’ve been “playing with house money.”

Several days ago, a friend I’d not been in touch with for years reached out to me.  Having tracked me down online, they ticked off a list of what they thought my life’s accomplishments:  a long list of things they considered impressive or at least noteworthy.  This friend was trying in their own way to tell me that my life has somehow been exceptional; different from others.

I’ve never really seen it that way and this friend’s list didn’t change that, but another list – one I devised on my own, I think summarizes my life better.

I’ve been poor.  I’ve been rich.
I’ve been beyond fat, and I’m now not.
I’ve had the sorrow of losing people close to me, and the joy of having new ones enter (or re-enter) my life.
I’ve gone from bombastic to self-effacing in many (but not all) ways, and from brazen to cautious.
I’ve people who curse the mention of my name and view me a monster, and those who (misguidedly, I’m sure) love me.
I’ve worked in many fields, yet have had very few days I’ve not enjoyed doing it; and I’ve learned from each and every one.
I’ve went from mean spirited to sarcastic, yet playful and teasing.
I’ve grown over time, from child to man, from son to father, from a know-it-all to what some (again, misguidedly) see as wise.
In many ways become exactly what I thought I might, while in others I’m the opposite of what I’d ever expected.

But, I don’t need a party to celebrate 50 years.  I don’t need a milestone to reflect on my past, nor envision my future.  I do that, in a smaller dose, every day.  If anything?  Next Friday’s simply a reminder that I have fewer of those days left.  That I should work a little more on what legacy I want to leave behind.  That I should try to do more to help others when and where I can.  And that I should celebrate each day I “play with house money” a little more.

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