This week, I turn fifty-two years old. I don't expect anyone else to care. I, myself, didn't really care until a few months ago when I began to attach significance to this milestone. Actually, it was my wife (soul-mate; cell-mate and, oh, family-therapist) who led me to understand what was happening. If you'll indulge me, I'll fill you in.
A little over forty years ago, an event took place which rocked my life. My father died of prostate cancer. Dad was fifty-two. He left behind a young wife and three even younger children. None of us were prepared for the acute jolt or the storm that was about to erupt. I had not expected my father to die.
But he did die, and when he did, a certain assumption pitched its tent in the wilderness of my consciousness. That assumption, which felt very much at home in the deep recesses of my mind, then proceeded to exert an unshakeable influence on my behavior and impacted the macro as well as micro choices that I would make. Irrational though it may be from an actuarial point of view, when my dad died, I assumed that I too would not live beyond the age of 52.
Despite the secret wishes of the medical students and interns whom, on a daily basis, I torture at the hospital where I work, this hasn't happened yet. But what has happened is that I've reached several conclusions.
Each person, I have come to realize, knowingly or otherwise, constructs, from an array of goals, a roadmap to follow on life’s journey. For some, goals might include making that first million. Others might set their sights on a trip around the world or grandchildren. Or perhaps more exotic goals prevail.
Some goals can be self-evident and easy to articulate. If you’d asked during my college days where I was headed, I’d have enthused about wanting to enter medical school. And maybe someday graduate. I’ve always had a short-list of politically correct aspirations that society - or at least the segment in my orbit - would seem likely to condone. But beyond the wish list for public consumption, most of us also carry around another list. A more faded wish-list that is harder to decipher. In my case, the top of that list was headed by the desire to make it to my 52nd year.
And suddenly, I can stare down that secret goal that has been driving me for so long and sing a thumb-nosing camp song that celebrates thebeen-there/done-that nature of my relationship with this special birthday. As a result, I'm left to ask "now what?!" I'd like to use this blog to ask "now what?!" together with you.
While 52 has been a primal force - if not a fear - that has framed my worldview, I have begun to realize that there are other “52's” to which I have attached significance, and I would imagine that you too have similar markers in your life. Be honest – do you have your own, er, "52"? Please understand that some of our "52's" may serve as motivating engines, while others may stymie us. I'd like to explore, identify, and deconstruct these symbolic touchstones. Having done this with my most intimate "52" - I can share with you – that there is an invigorating freedom that results from this quest.
Let me complete the puzzle by taking one more look at the calendar. Whether by coincidence or not, the number 52 has added value in that there are 52 weeks in the year. My plan is to compose one post every week during the upcoming year in an attempt to sort through what is important to me. I am inviting you to join me in the weekly exercise by trying to comprehend what is meaningful in your life. You might wish to blog along or just coast - hopefully enjoying the scenery of my journey - until you reach your own important inflection point. If the idea takes off, we can create a flash-mob of people encouraging each other to "write their own 52". I admit that this whole thing is a bit weird but who knows where the road may lead - perhaps to encouragement, possibly to an enhanced sense of purpose…or even to an entirely new roadmap. With the best of luck, maybe we’ll plot a course to mend the world—but only if you come along.
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