Generation series – it doesn’t hurt: what it’s like to turn 50 and not even realize it

As a teenager, I swore I wouldn’t be a spitfire by the time I was 50. I have been fifty for exactly 50 days now. and far from becoming a spiesser. At least that’s what I think with sparkling conviction. If you ask my 19-year-old twin daughters, however, the case is not so clear-cut.

Rainer Sommerhalder

No longer on a world-record course as they were 30 years ago in the Badener Aue,

. but with twice as much chin

Rainer Sommerhalder

No longer on a world record course as they were 30 years ago in the Badener Aue,

. but with twice as much chin

Rainer Sommerhalder

Leave me alone, all you know-it-alls!! The 50. Celebrating a birthday is terrible. Why can’t you just say congratulations without asking that one question: How does it feel to be fifty? I steadfastly refuse to think about this for even a second.

As an answer unfortunately not a good idea. Sounds somehow like a crisis of meaning. So much so that the wife suspects the first signs of old-age depression. That the colleague asks when I will run my next marathon. And that the boss asks you to write about what it’s like to be fifty as part of this series. After all, there are enough topics. No longer being in demand on the job market. The first physical signs of wear and tear. Or the inner emptiness when the children grow up. A rather negatively tinged range of topics. Don’t you think?

Generation series

The Swiss are getting older and older. There are generations living at the same time that have been socialized completely differently. What makes different age groups tick? What is her attitude to life, what makes her happy and what keeps her busy?? In a series we follow the generations. Today: The 50-year-olds, described by sports editor Rainer Sommerhalder. Tomorrow, editor Rita Kohn will describe what it’s like when the number 60 approaches.

According to public perception, turning fifty must be terrible. A kind of illness that is incurable. A moment when decay ignites the turbo. I do not believe that my refusal to think about it stems from an inner fear. Perhaps the trained psychologist sees it differently. Would even advise me to visit his practice. Talk about a serious life crisis. Advocating confrontation with the subject instead of repression. But I say: being fifty doesn’t hurt! At least not on the psychological level.

I have been working for the same company for 30 years, I have been in the same sports club for 25 years and I have been with the same woman for more than half my life. I would describe myself as constant and reliable. And I have certain principles. What I do, I do with conviction. At the age of 20, I already imagined how my life could be and what was important to me in it. Of course, not everything has turned out the way I thought it would. I am neither a millionaire, nor do I drive a Corvette. And I certainly don’t live in California.

I feel as if I had just sprung from puberty. I am looking forward to life.

(Source: Rainer Sommerhalder)

But the guiding principles of my development have remained valid over the last 30 years. And what I personally like most – I still think and feel as I did when I was 20. I used to wonder, when I was looking at older people, what would happen to you when you turned fifty. You can feel the wear and tear? Seeking escape from old age? Do you even fall into a crisis?

Today I know: Basically nothing has changed. I feel like I’ve just sprung from puberty. I look forward to life. I have plans and goals and maybe even more dreams than I had back then. Even the Corvette is not yet a thing of the past. Only life experience tells me in the meantime that it will probably also end up as a dream.

Reading tip for fifty year olds

Robert M. Pirsig: "Zen and the Art of Maintaining a Motorcycle"

Unfortunately, this book, with which Robert Maynard Pirsig was successful, became a "cult book". He did not object to the success, but the label bothered him. The work was meant as a serious contribution to philosophy. And read it as a "road movie," a journey to oneself, or whatever was on people’s minds in 1974 (that’s when it appeared) and just about ever since.

Why people around the age of 50 should read it is also related to this. Set as a story of coming to terms with a life crisis – the highly intelligent, highly gifted Pirsig struggled with the U.S. university system and spent some time in a mental hospital – that was to be dealt with on a cross-country motorcycle trip with his son. The story is about riding, camping and just the occupation with the inner life of a motorcycle. Philosophically, with the concept of "quality", Pirsig tries to overcome the dualistic worldview that has dominated our thinking since the Greeks. A defective motorcycle as an occasion for an observing, not a priori (with concepts) discriminating thinking. (chb)

The realization that the spirit of a 50-year-old can remain youthful is a great satisfaction. That’s why I’m sure I’m not a spiesser. Every now and then someone even tells me that I am a child, or asks me to finally grow up. Then I thank you for the compliment. I do not want to change just because I am getting older. Of course I repent for stubbornness. Three hours of sport at a stretch leave different traces than in youthful years.

I still dare to climb in the mountains, but the realization fails at the first smaller rock. And the feeling of winning the next time remains an unshakable feature of every lost game against an opponent 20 years younger than me. Realism is not part of the youthful thinking. Not even at fifty.

A support for two generations

Of course, there are those moments when you wonder if the expiration date is approaching. For example, if as the next trip even a cruise is worth a brief thought. Or being left standing in front of golf equipment that has been reduced by 50 percent in a clearance sale. On the other hand, I don’t want to exaggerate the fact that I attended a tennis course in the past few weeks, spent the last vacations with relatives or just switched to the "New Year’s Eve stadium" on the TV at midnight.

It seems much more important to me to take up the cudgels for all 50-year-olds at this point. Do you know that this age group achieves daily peak performances? And this on several levels. Never in life is one challenged in so many ways. Parents and parents-in-law are at an age when they increasingly need support. Organizing my father’s retirement home transition, taking over my mother’s paperwork – I regularly manage things for which there was no reason before.

the same time, one’s own children are somewhere between takeoff and insanity. 19-year-old twin daughters in the middle of the final phase of their education and well practiced in late pubertal eruptions, are no mean feat. I would like to thank journalist Nicole Althaus for a wonderful article in the "NZZ am Sonntag" about parents of teenagers in the time of maturity. Unlike Althaus, however, I would never describe the challenges of adolescence with one’s own children as "the best time of my life.". Quite the opposite.

The scale of confrontation between adolescents and their parents is unfortunately open towards the top. The most recent example: One hour before the return flight from vacation, one of my daughters spontaneously tells me that she won’t be getting on the plane, but will be staying with her boyfriend, an American street musician in South Florida, until further notice. She without money, he also not exactly with the fat wallet. Fortunately, we have tested such moments enough during the last years in family training camps and practice serenity. At some point, everyone returns to their nest.

Serenity spreads

At 50, you’re not just sandwiched between two demanding family generations. Challenges also arise at work and during leisure time. "Now that the kids are becoming independent, you could run for local council," an acquaintance told me two years ago. Why not actually? After all, providing service to the community is one of the core competencies of 50-year-olds. But you need a particularly thick skin for this office, the warning came free of charge.

I would have to lie if I called myself thick skinned. From a purely physiological point of view, skin thickness decreases with age anyway. The fact that, after two intense years in my new favorite hobby, I never got a thick neck despite the absence of a thick skin is due to another quality that has taken possession of me: Serenity. This is called life experience. Or more strikingly paraphrased: The roof above me has collapsed so many times in the last 30 years that I have lost the fear of it. An extremely useful nature, unfortunately only really discovered at the age of fifty.

What else should a 50-year-old write about?? "Maybe about sex," my wife says while brainstorming, "that generates clicks on the homepage."From the children’s room a determined "Don’t do it!!". So let’s leave that and focus on the modern field of clicks all the same. If I claim to think like a 20-year-old, then I remember myself 30 years ago.

But like a 20-year-old today? For heaven’s sake, don’t! Discovering life’s wisdom thanks to reality TV, defining the ideal of beauty through Instagram and implementing the worldview with 30-line Facebook posts – this is definitely not my world. Whether this makes me a spiesser from the point of view of this generation? Sorry, when I swore in 1989 that I would never become one, I didn’t yet know how the young would put themselves in the picture in 2019.

PS: It just occurred to me again that I also wanted to briefly address the incipient forgetfulness that I think I’m discovering in myself at fifty. Forgotten unfortunately.

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