Commentary: At 50

Selfie at 50
Photo by Randy Stern

"Age ain't nothing but a number."

The late singer Aaliyah made this statement regarding her youth in the face of the music industry. It came as a song and a coda up until her untimely death, it is also something I present when people talk about age, behavior, experience and so forth.

On February 5, I turn 50. It is a number that used to be daunting, but attainable. It struck fear as ageist stereotypes denote a slower life, a decline. I honestly feared what I might turn out at 50.

Each year I grew closer to that age, my fears went away. It is because of letting go of the fear. As I found out, 50 is only a mental barrier that is artificial. It is not a physical cataclysmic event where a colon test only marks the beginning of immediate decline of well being.

Not so, I argue. Today's 50-year-old is more "youthful" and vibrant than what we viewed the same age several decades ago. We have embraced our gray hair – or, the lack of foliage up top. We’re sexier – in various ways. We are in the gym or out being active not because we have to. We are dressing contemporarily, as we simply should.

Yet, we have deeper memories. We could recall times that seem distant to a younger person. What are The Beatles? The same group that spawned John Lennon, whom we could recall where we were when he was shot to death in front of the Dakota Apartments. We could recall seeing the original Ford Mustang without referencing it at some classic car meet. Or, even owned a Volkswagen Sedan – the original one.

Why does this all matter this idea of age? I am still the same person I was a moment ago – even years ago. Same in some ways, but there are days when the same bodily function may be a bit different than some time ago.

With age, come demographics. As an automotive writer, I am fully aware that my age denotes an artificial shift in target age, target population and shopping habits at Target. We newly-turned-50 are now under the radar of luxury brands who consider us ripe with retirement accounts to indulge on something quite expensive.

The truth is – most of us are not in the demographic. Nor want to be. Nor should we be presumed to have a "mature" approach to sports cars and everything else in the marketplace. As for being "practical" – you have to be kidding, right?

Ten years ago, Scion learned the truth about targeting demographics. Yes, you could market to certain age groups, but if you sell an affordable, practical vehicle, other demographic groups will buy it!

It works in reverse, by the way.

Demographics and ageist stereotypes only cover the things I detest about aging in America. They fuel visions that lead towards discrimination, division and other tower blocks that keep populations divided against each other.

These are the reasons why I feared turning 50. They also fuel my want to emerge beyond calendar-induced class identification.

Why? Look at how love frames couplings. Love no longer knows race, ethnicity, language, gender, physical and emotional health. Love is also blind to age. It may be strange to some when a 40-something year old man dates someone younger or older than he, but it is the reality of today's society. Your blind eye cannot unsee such progression in love and thinking beyond stereotypical norms.

If you reverse your thinking beyond the so-called "norm," you would embrace a world that is flexible and yielding to all.

That alone makes me embrace 50.

Still, I have my moments of being a crotchety-old bastard. Or, at least the perception of being one on occasion, especially when presented with foul behaviors in front of me. The "norm" of society does not necessarily mean that we agree upon it. Sadly, our disagreements – even in practical matters – are shown regardless of age or self-identity.

That is called life, folks! Even at age 50.

The one thing I embrace about being 50 is the fact that I still have plenty I want to accomplish in my life. Just because you turn a certain age that you no longer have dreams or goals. Dreams and goals help keep us young…mentally, physically and otherwise.

Did you know that I have never driven a pure sports car? I am talking something along the lines of a Porsche 911, a Corvette or a Ferrari. It is something I would like to do – tick one off the bucket list or fulfill something for this profession.

Also I have never been off of this continent. How that would manifest is not at question here, but rather the fact alone. It would make this life – this automotive writer’s life – pretty whole to see the places he had dreamt of.

Lastly, I have never been able to fulfill true love. It has nothing to do with this work, but it certainly helps to have someone with you to share these moments, as well as explore what the other person brings to the table. Love should never be about a singular entity within the confines of two caring people.

Still, 50 year olds do dream! We do have goals we want to accomplish in our lives. The concept of time left to live does not daunt us. Nor should we feel any pressure to fulfill these dreams at this stage in our lives. Rather, to approach them without evoking the words of Lee Iacocca: "Lead, follow or get out of the way!" You have to do so embracing the people you touch and engaging with them along the way. These might be my dreams, but if they resonance – they are worth sharing with you.

I embrace my new age with renewed energy, regained vigor and a continued curiosity of all things past, present and future.

Let the celebration begin!

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