MY 70TH BIRTHDAY YEAR OF CELEBRATIONS
I’m about to begin my 70th birthday year of celebration. Yes, that’s right, ‘year’. I decided I didn’t want another drinks or dinner party. I decided I wanted a whole year to celebrate…if that’s the right word for turning 70. Here’s why.
Not Another Birthday Party!
I’ve never been very conventional. So the thought of ‘celebrating’ being 70 by having a ‘party’ with all my friends seemed more like it might be a wake. I struggle to see the ‘good’ side of being 70, except that you are still alive, surviving. What seems clear is that you are not as well at 70 as you were at 60. You are on the downhill slide.
I wondered, ‘What do I really want?’ And I realised that there were lots of things I wanted to do, with lots of my friends – separately, not all together. Rather selfishly, I felt that I’ve been working to support others in many ways for most of my life. For once, I wanted to be free of obligations, to do things that I wanted to do, regardless of what others wanted, and I found that I needed to spread those out due to the seasons, so it would take a whole year to do them!
Most of these ‘0’ birthdays, the special ones, that you really don’t want to have, spread themselves anyway. Not everyone can come to your special day, your special event, so your birthday party spreads. I decided that I would actively spread it, trying to involve friends in particular events they too would enjoy, rather than have them come to one compromise ‘party’ that was no one’s special wish.
An Active Year, Not a Passive One
I have been very lucky in life. I’ve done most of the things I want to in my life. I’ve certainly eaten and drunk everything I could wish for, so food and drink offer me no special highlights. But I found that there were places I wanted to go, experiences I wanted to have (even if I’d had some of them already) and particular people I wanted to share those places and experiences with, if possible. So I began my plan for the year.
I planned to start with a bang. The Melbourne Marathon is the day after my actual birthday. I treasured my marathon experience in 2012. My knees said ‘Never again’. I said, ‘What about a half marathon?’ My doctor said, “OK’. My knees said, ‘We’ll give it a try if you’re careful.’ I invited my sons. One said he’d join me. Tick.
I’ve always wanted to do the Great Victorian Bike Ride. So I added that and found a friend to join me, with our wives managing meals and accommodation along the way. A friend is lending me his bike. Tick.
I’ve tried hard, but unsuccessfully, to get to see the US basketball team play at the 1972, 1992 and 2012 Olympics. They are coming to Melbourne to play Australia on the way to the Tokyo World Championships. I invited my sons and brother and they said yes. Tick.
I wanted to do some more walking in US national parks and visit my Minnesota friends. A US wedding came up, two friends accepted to come walking in Utah, so we’re starting my birthday early to match the wedding date. Tick.
I had a wonderful time many years ago when we took tickets for the whole Australian Open tennis tournament, taking it in turns to go with a friend each day. That’s my next event to plan.
I want to play on the outdoor stadium tennis courts at Melbourne Park with my tennis group. You can do this.
Then I have plans for a month living in country France, a week cycling in The Netherlands, walking in Cornwall, walking part of the Great South West Walk, experiencing the WA wildflowers and the WA outback, each with friends if possible. Each requires a different part of the year.
I also want a solo week. I actually want a whole week completely to myself. I have no idea what I will do with this, but it will be a unique experience.
And there are other possibilities no yet planned, or perhaps even thought of. But, if I want to do them and can, I will. This is my year.
It sounds like a sabbatical. From regular life. No responsibilities. Me first. It is!!
It’s decadent I know. I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to plan it and have such great friends to share parts of it with. By the end of the 70th year, I’ll be sated…and it will be time to return to ‘normal’, helping others, taking responsibilities, compromising.
But, as 70 looms, it’s clear to me that my remaining, very active life is short. Some of these I won’t be able to do again. Ever. So do it now. Normal life can wait.