Today is my fiftieth birthday. Half a century. I am more baffled by these words than I am concerned really. It is strange though to realize that my life is now most certainly over half over. I have been telling people that I was totally freaked out leading up to my fortieth (I was), and that now I am just annoyed. The fact is, from this point the next “big one” is sixty, and THAT is weird. That is officially “old” in my book, always has been since I was a little kid, and that picture still holds in my mind.
My father called yesterday to wish me a happy (pre) birthday. He said that he loved turning fifty. I asked him why that was, and he said that he had spent much of his forties wondering whether he was young or if he was old; when he turned fifty that was no longer a question. Thanks, pops, very reassuring.
I am aware that this is just another number, and that the value we put on these milestones are essentially arbitrary. But I also think that milestones in life are important. They are markers in life that give us reference; markers that we can measure our accomplishments against our plans and the expectations we put on ourselves.
For me, twenty five was the first time a birthday made me take pause and evaluate my life up to that point. Was I happy with what I had accomplished? Was I happy with who I was and what I was doing? When I turned twenty five, I had been living in Seattle for 5 years. I had managed one dream that I had had since high school, that of playing in a band writing original music (I had been in a few by then). The Deep Six compilation had come out and contained the first recordings by Skin Yard, the band I had started with Jack Endino the year before. I was working full-time in a restaurant and was going to school at Seattle Community College on and off, my A.A. still unfinished. I had my own apartment, one half of a side-by-side duplex on the edge of Capitol Hill. Skin Yard was just finishing the recording of our first full-length record. It was a massively creative time in a city on the verge of a musical explosion…though none of us had any idea where we would be over the next several years. The band seemed to be picking up steam. My life was good.
My next “big” birthday was my fortieth. That one was hard. As mentioned above, during the six months leading up to that one, I was completely freaked out. I still don’t know why that one hit so hard, but a lifetime had happened since my previous milestone birthday fifteen years before. Skin Yard had fully run its course a decade prior, but it had been a good ride. We had stayed together for 6½ years, had released 4 studio records, a handful of singles and had been included on a number of compilations. We had toured the west coast countless times and had embarked on several national tours during our time together. We had shared the stage with Soundgarden, Nirvana, Faith No More, The Flaming Lips, Melvins, The Butthole Surfers, Snakefinger, Redd Kross, Meat Puppets, Malfunkshun, Green River¸ Bad Religion, Alice Donut, The Afghan Whigs, The Goo Goo Dolls and a host of others.
I had worked at Sub Pop for a few of their first years as a record label, had run C/Z records for over a decade, building it up to a company with a full roster of artists and a staff of thirteen. I had released over 90 separate titles including the very first record by Built to Spill and a couple of the first songs ever released by Nirvana. I watched my label crumble due entirely to one of the worst distribution deals ever. I had become a parent, had gotten married, and had gotten divorced. I had seen too many friends die including my grandfather, the most influential male in my life, Andrew Wood, Kurt Cobain, Stephanie Sargent and a load of others whose name may not be recognizable, but were sad losses nonetheless. I had begun working with web media for the previous several years at Real Networks and had just been laid off. I had been on antidepressants for the previous seven years and had been completely done with Seattle for the previous four years. Like a bad marriage, one of us had changed (maybe both?) and it was time to move on.
It still took a couple more. To move on, that is. After the layoff, I went back to school and finished my degree in web development. I was living with my then girlfriend. She had been laid off too and was also back in school. I decided it was time to move to Los Angeles where I had wanted to live since 1997. I sold the house and we moved down to L.A. together. Within 4 months I was off of antidepressants, and haven’t needed them since. I oversaw the development and build of the now-defunct DownloadPunk.com, oversaw the development and launch of ShoutFactory.com, conceived of, and oversaw the development and launch of RocknRollDating.com, oversaw the development and launch of Peer2, bought a house, got married, got a couple of dogs, managed to get out of the music entertainment business, and made the shift into a profession in healthcare. I still work in web and social media and project management, but now I have a viable and sustainable future. I have a sense of stability. My son has just moved to L.A. He is here and will be starting a new life for himself. I see him as being in a similar place as I was when I first moved to Seattle. It’s all a blank slate for him with every conceivable possibility at his disposal.
I am settling in, but do not feel in any way resigned. I am back in school again, this time concurrent with my job at the hospital. I have all sorts of plans for after I graduate. I still have a book to write, maybe two. I think I have a screenplay in me, but won’t know until I dive in. I want to create more music, some with my son, some I am hoping with a (sort of) reunion with Jack and Barrett from Skin Yard. I am in good health and I love living in L.A. I have great friends here and a happy life. I guess being fifty aint so bad. So why do I still feel annoyed?