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At 50, it's all about the quality of living over quantity

Published July 30, 2006

George Eliot wrote "It's never too late to be what you might have been."

With all due respect, she was wrong. Yes, "she." George Eliot was a nom de plume for 19th-century novelist Mary Anne Lewes.

I have pondered Eliot's assertion frequently of late, as I prepare to mark the milestone occasion of being a resident in this universe for a half-century.

While it is easy to embrace the hopeful spirit of what Eliot was saying, which I take to mean that one should never give up on one's dreams, it is more difficult to wrap my arms around the reality.

I submit that at 50, it is too late for me to:

* Become a rock star whose talent for crooning leaves grown women swooning.* Hit a long ball to left with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to win the World Series.* Become an astronaut.* Marry Ann-Margret or star in a movie opposite Jessica Lange.* Become a ballet or break dancer, a military general, a skateboarder or an adult film star.* Bungee jump, hang glide, charm a snake, swallow a sword, pierce or tattoo my skin, swim the English Channel, climb Mount Everest, enter a mosh pit or jump out of a fully functional airplane.

For these limitations, however, I am thankful because taking a pass on such unnecessary risks is proof I am not completely insane.

This is not an inclusive list, of course, but it's enough to make my point about Eliot's declaration.

But, lest I be accused of dwelling on what I cannot do, I am encouraged there is much more within easy reach on the can-do list. It's never too late to:

- Plan my retirement, which may or may not involve selling cold drinks on the beach or rocking on the back porch of a mountain cabin.

- Become a real cook, which means timing everything to be done at once.

- Improve my golf game, or die trying.

- Spend more time catching than fishing.

- Exercise more and drop another 10 pounds so the doc will get off my aching back.

- Take more naps.

- Attend more college football games.

- Visit Italy.

- Revisit Ireland.

- Learn Spanish.

- Read more for pleasure.

And that's just for starters.

I'm learning that turning 50 has its benefits. Two of which I became aware last week were that I soon will be eligible for AARP discounts, and annual medical tests that end in "-oscopy."

I have been lucky. I made it 45 years without wearing glasses. I've broken only one bone. I've never been unemployed. I have most of my teeth and hair, and I don't give a whit that the latter is turning gray.

I still have one parent around to remind me not to get too big for my britches. I am blessed with more old friends than I probably deserve and an appreciation of the opportunity to make new ones.

I have a wife who has loved me for 25 years and a dog who thinks I rock because, even though I'm about to turn 50, I can still throw his ball and I don't forget to feed him.

I drive a 22-year-old car and grin every time I think about not having a car payment. I have a pair of wing-tip shoes that I've worn 17 years and they were hand-me-downs when I got 'em.

I still get jazzed about buying a Christmas tree or going on a hayride.

And, while I do not claim to be an expert on anything at all, I am smart enough to know it is impossible to laugh too much.

Lately, lots of people have asked me how it feels to be turning 50.

The easy answer is that it beats the heck out of the alternative.

But the more meaningful answer is, as those of you have gone before me already know, the older I get the more I realize it's not how long you live, but how you live.

On that much, Eliot and I agree.

Reach Jeff Webb at or (352) 754-6123.

[Last modified July 30, 2006, 00:41:20]

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