"You baby boomers think you're the first humans to invent everything: music, sex, and now turning 40 or 50. It won't feel much different that 51 you know."
"Have lots of small parties. Spread them out through the year. Do special things with special friends, and, for heaven's sake, don't call them birthday parties."
"You know you can't earn God's love and acceptance. They're gifts. Well, the same is true with most people. Just relax. Be yourself."
Note: This is the 2nd of a two-part series. For the 1st installment, see 1949.
What do I want for my 50th birthday? How will I celebrate it? One would think these easy questions to answer. I certainly didn't have trouble with such topics at age five: A red and white Western Flyer bicycle with blue streamers coming out the handle bars and a party for all my buddies with lots of German chocolate cake.
Yet I've been clueless about my 50th for a couple of months now, ever since an out-of-state journalist asked to interview me on the subject. "Baby boomers seem enamored with plans to celebrate their 50th," she said to me. "You're a baby boom expert; you're about to turn 50; what are you going to do?"
My mind then was as blank as it was last week when I did the stupidest thing I've done thus far in this column. I announced to you that I would reveal my plans for celebrating my 50th BEFORE I knew what those plans would be. Oh well, the Muse was gracious, and an office mate gave me an idea. What if I projected myself into the future? For instance, what would an 80-year-old version of me say to the 50-year model? I think the conversation might go like this:
"OK. So what do I do for my 50th?"
"First off, get over the 50th part Sonny (80-year-olds can call 50-year-olds "Sonny"). You baby boomers think you're the first humans to invent everything: music, sex, and now turning 40 or 50. It won't feel much different that 51 you know."
"You mean 50th birthdays aren't that important?"
"Didn't say that. Fact is, they're all important. I say treat all birthdays special."
"So what do I do? Plan a big party?"
"I wouldn't. Big parties are too . . . well, too big. They cost too much. They aren't long enough to give you time with each guest. And you can't do all you want to do there. Have lots of small parties. Spread them out through the year. Do special things with special friends, and, for heaven's sake, don't call them birthday parties."
"OK. So what should I ask for? I really can't think of anything special I want this year."
"Of course you can't. You already have much of what you want, most of what you need, and way more than what you deserve. I say be like the Hobbits in Tolkien's trilogy. Turn the tables on your friends and family this year and you be the gift giver. It's more fun you know."
"I do know, but remember, I've just come through five years of grad school. I don't have a lot of spare cash."
"You don't need it. Your friends are like you: [they] have much more than they need materially, much less emotionally and spiritually. Give away some compassion, some encouragement, some hope. And while you're at it, give yourself some of these too."
"What do you mean?"
"What I mean is that you're just like most other baby boomers: too busy trying to prove yourself; thus too anxious, too driven. You know you can't earn God's love and acceptance. They're gifts. Well, the same is true with most people. Just relax. Be yourself."
"Yep. Get yourself a red and white Western Flyer bicycle with blue streamers coming out the handle bars and eat lots of German chocolate cake with your buddies."
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