Chad Grayson

Portrait of the Writer as a (No Longer) Young Man

a sparkler held against a dark sky
photo credit Cristian Escobar on Unsplash

               50. Oof. It’s here. I didn’t believe it would actually arrive, or rather, I’d hoped it wouldn’t. I guess I’d hoped to stay in some sort of liminal space, not dying but not getting any older, either. Of course, that option is denied to us, and in that, I am not special.

               And now that it’s here, I feel … fine? I did not, upon waking on the morning of January 16th, dissolve into dust and bones like that dude at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, so I’m taking that as a win. And really, 50 is just a number. It doesn’t mean that much. I don’t feel any different than I did last week.

               If I compare how I feel now to how I felt on my 40th birthday, well … there’s no comparing them, really. I feel just as strong physically as I did then. Beyond that, when I turned 40, I was still living a lie. I was still, essentially, playing a character, and that came with a lot of stress. I was in a desperately unhappy marriage, caught in a trap I’d set for myself, and having no idea of how I would ever get out of it.

               But I’m out of that trap now. I’m free in all the ways that matter. And I managed to gain that freedom without destroying all of my important relationships, which was something I never imagined possible.

               Turning 50, I finally found the secret to finishing things, and have an actual writing career, such as it is. I have a nice house to live in. I have wonderful relationships with my kids and my grandkids. I have good friends who are there for me and who I can confide in. I have a satisfying role at the library. I have hobbies I enjoy and can make time for. And I have an amazing boyfriend, which was something I’d never even imagined would be possible for me.

               In short, my life is pretty good right now. If someone offered me the chance to roll back the clock so I could be a few years younger, I would not make that bargain.  

               It took a lot to get here. Mainly, it took becoming exhausted with the pretense I was putting up. It took me realizing that I needed to not only liberate myself from the trap I was in, but that my wife needed to be freed from it as well. That is what gave me the courage to upend my life, throwing everything in disarray. But I was able to pick of the pieces and create a new life out of the things that still had value to me.

               I could have made that process easier for myself, but part of me is glad that I didn’t. I learned from the pain, and I’m stronger for enduring it. I wasn’t ready until I was ready.

               And now, nearly four years later, I still have a lot of things I need to work on, but I’m doing OK. I would like to be more disciplined and make faster progress through some things, but I’m accomplishing a lot as it is. I think I have a number of healthy years ahead of me (knock on wood) and I have work to do and people who are helping me along the path. I wouldn’t say that I’m lucky because I’m not sure I really believe in luck. I would say I was blessed if that term didn’t make me want to barf. But maybe I am both of those things. I have, over the course of the last four years, became a person who believes in himself. I mean, I screw up a lot. I can be lazy and inconsiderate sometimes. In many ways, I am still a hot mess. Definitely a work in progress.

               But I am wholly myself, for the first time. There’s a song by Derek Webb that I love, called ‘All of me is Here,’ and that feels like my theme song. I’m not holding anything back, the way I used to hold back my true self.  I can say that I’m putting forth my best effort in every area. Sometimes my best isn’t that great, but I’m offering it anyway. I have grown into myself, and I feel like I’m going to keep growing, and changing, and adapting to this life. Things are not perfect, but I no longer feel like I need to transform into a completely different person to accomplish my goals.

               There are a lot of good things in my life, and I think there are more coming. I’m not afraid of the future anymore, or worse, resigned to it. I can face what’s coming with hope, and that feels like everything. 

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