50

What I look like at age 50. Surprisingly okay. This was actually taken a couple of days ago, but I look the same today, I SWEAR,

You didn’t know this because I didn’t say anything about it, but I recently had a brief mid-life crisis, which I thought was about turning 50. And because I was efficient about it, I had it last year.

What had happened was, after I was done with my book tour for The Consuming Fire in October, I spent most of November and December in a funk, seemingly for no particular reason. I was spending most of my time laying on the couch and/or being snarky on Twitter rather than writing pay copy, which is intellectual equivalent of laying on the couch. I wasn’t aware of this funk for a bit, because it’s not unusual for me to spend a couple of weeks after a tour, in which I am on all the time, in a bit of an introverted recuperative phase. But it eventually got to a point where even I realized this laying around thing had gone on too long, and maybe there was something more to it than just being “peopled out.”

My brain, being my brain, offered me a simple and attractive solution to my issue: It’s because you’re going to be 50! It said. In, like, half a year! And then you’ll officially be old! You’re finally having your midlife crisis!

Which, at first blush, seemed to make sense. After all, when you’re fifty, even if you contend that you are not in fact old, you have to accept that by no reasonable consideration are you young anymore — “Too Old To Die Young,” is the way I’ve been phrasing it to people. With the realization that you are too old to die young comes certain other realizations, not only of banal mortality (actuarially speaking I am likely now to have more years behind than ahead, although I definitely have years ahead) but of what the rest of one’s life will be like. The saying “Today is the youngest you’ll ever be” means something different when you understand that the next 20 or 30 years will bring a diminution of physical and mental strength and ability.

At best you’ll be able to manage the decline; at worst, your ability to manage that decline will be taken from you. Some things that you always wanted to do you’re likely never to do. Some paths you could have taken you can no longer turn onto. You’ve become who you are and for better or worse you’ll be living with that person for the rest of your life.

So, yes: being somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty seemed like a really good excuse for a midlife crisis that I never managed to get to before. Time — finally! — for that convertible sports car and that twenty-three year old!

Except.

The thing about midlife crises is that, in my experience, they’re not about age but unhappiness — unhappiness about some aspect or aspects of one’s life, along with a feeling of helplessness about ever being able to change that thing without (intentionally or otherwise) blowing up a large portion of your life, which you probably don’t want to do. And “midlife” is a fine time to feel that, because by that time you’ve had enough time to become unhappy, and to see those feelings of regrets and missed opportunities pile up until you can’t avoid them anymore.

So before I could officially declare I was having a midlife crisis about becoming fifty, I had to ask myself: Leaving aside the possibility of clinical depression (which is a whole different can of worms), am I actually unhappy? And if I am, what is it that I am actually unhappy about?

(And yes, it’s a telling aspect about me and my personality that I can’t just have a funk without examining the root causes of it.)

I was, in fact, unhappy.

Okay then, but about what? Career? Well, no, my career is going along great — I’m happy with the work I put out in the world, and I’ve been fortunate to have bestsellers, awards, adaptations, fans and travel and all the money I need for my life. Marriage? Again, no: I’m as in love with Krissy as I’ve ever been in our lives together, and still happily amazed I get to be with her. Kid? My kid is great and remains the perfect kid for me. Friends? I have many, and they are terrific people, and every day I feel fortunate to know people who are good and kind and talented. General quality of life? It’s very high, and more importantly I am satisfied with it on a day-to-day basis. There’s not much I would change about my life and the people in it.

Physical shape?

Ahhhhhhhh, yes. That’s it. Here we go.

I was unhappy both with the way I looked and felt physically — and, with respect to becoming 50, I was also aware that how I decided to treat my body today was going to set the bar for the next fifteen to twenty years and beyond. I was finally at the age where, as an otherwise healthy, able-bodied person, I had to decide what physical quality of life I wanted to have, essentially, for the rest of my life.

Well, my brain said, the good news is that you can fix this. You’ll hate it, but you can fix it.

This is why, the day after Christmas, I started exercising and counting my calories. And it’s worked: As I’ve noted elsewhere, my weight is down twenty pounds since December, I’m close to my weight goal, and my overall physical health is better than it was. I feel better.

And along with feeling better, that “midlife crisis” of December appears to have fizzled out entirely. I’m 50 today, and today I’m happy. Not just because it’s my birthday, but because in looking forward to the next decade and beyond, I’m excited about the potential for it. I’m happy today and if my life stayed as it is now, I would be delighted to write books, put them out there into the world, and to see and cherish friends and family. But right now there seem to be opportunities to do all that and more, in my personal life and in my career, and to keep growing and moving forward and seeing what happens next. And that’s pretty great.

And yes, all that stuff I mentioned before still applies — I’m getting older and I’ll be getting older faster as I go along. Some things I’ve idly wondered about will always have to be idle wonders. And who I am now is likely to be who I’ll be moving forward. Beyond that, life is almost never a best case scenario. In the next decade life will throw me curveballs and potholes, because that’s what life does. You never do know what’s next, until it happens. I could be consumed by the proverbial bear tomorrow.

But that’s what life does in every decade, truth to tell. In my twenties, I expected to work at a newspaper all my life. In my thirties I thought writing novels would be a side gig at best. As my forties begun I had yet met some of the people who have become some of the most important in my life. My life is not what I expected, save for the simple idea that I always knew I wanted to write (which in itself isn’t entirely true; when I was ten I wanted to be an astronomer. Writing turned out to be the backup gig). I don’t know what my fifties have in store for me either, except that so much of it will be something I can’t expect today.

What is important is how you approach moving forward. And today, on my birthday, turning fifty isn’t a crisis for me, midlife or otherwise. I feel good physically and mentally. I’m happy with my life today. I’m looking forward to all the rest of it.

It’s a good place to be when one is starting a whole new personal decade. Let’s see where things go from here.

75 thoughts on “50

  1. As someone who isn’t quite 50 (couple of years to go), but recently lost 30 pounds, though with more to go… Yeah. It makes a big difference. It doesn’t *look* like a difference, but I feel better. Congrats.

  2. Happy birthday, John! Let’s see how it turns out for the next 50 —or who knows— 100 years!

  3. Welcome to the downward slope of the curve! It’s more fun if you keep your hands in the air. Wishing you a wonderful year.

  4. Happy Birthday John! And 50 was actually pretty cool, 60 not so much. But on the other hand, here to complain so not a bad thing. From a rather selfish perspective, hoping you have many happy years ahead. After the debacle of ’16, your writings on the matter helped a LOT. So hoping it’s a great one for you and all you care about. Just need MORE KITTIES!

  5. In my experience, a midlife crisis involves young women of half your age, funky cars, gym, divorce & bankruptcy. It usually occurs around the 40ties. I would say you’ve been left rather unscathed. And yes, this hairline will probably keep receding and the body sagging. But think of the alternative of not aging anymore.

  6. Congratulations on your choice to become fit for the future when you have the chance. I did not, and am paying something of a price at age 67. And, as others have said, the 50s are great. You get to revel in who you are. There are lots of things you no longer have to care abouy.

  7. Happy 50th birthday, John! I hope you have many fantastic years ahead! I personally am looking forward to more of your writing here and in your fictional universes as I’m sure others are as well. Have a great birthday!!

  8. I’m about 5 months your senior, so I’m with you on this, although I have a farther road to travel on the “getting in shape” road, but I am rooting for you. But I, like you, am largely happy with my life, it’s a constant struggle, but when your job is trying to help those around you have a better life, it will always be like that. My job is fixing things, but I have ALWAYS wanted to write, so I have to live vicariously through you and love your blog for the perspective it gives. Keep up the good work and remember, you still have that contract to fulfill and that should keep you busy for the next decade, so keep that nose to the grindstone.

  9. Weeping big salty tears for you, John, but then smiling and blinking through them like a shy schoolgirl, thanks to your winning attitude. You’ll do fine.

    I had some of the same thoughts back when I turned 50. Still unable to afford that midlife crisis, but I’m hoping to get it done before I die.

  10. I really love this post. Age happens, to us all, and I love how you deal with it. As you say, life has curveballs aplenty. I had a larger physical one at 35 where my body basically aged rapidly in many respects (like mobility) so I move like an eighty year old. It took me years to come to terms with this, moving past the emotion of it all. Eventually I did, realizing I just hit old age early. But life has a way of going on, despite complications.
    I really enjoyed the way you describe life, and aging. I’m 57 now, old enough to get some actual body age experience along with any other issues. Your post just resonated with me. I like the way you look at it, so good humored and so right about it, aligning with my own experiences. And choosing to identify and change what made you unhappy. What a great example. We are all the authors of our own life story.

  11. This is some good introspection and will surely lead to maintaining the quality of your life going forward.

    That said, I think you should still go for the sports car.

  12. Well said and well reasoned.

    About 10 years ago, my wife and I reached the age where we started losing loved ones (family, friends, dear colleagues) prematurely — one at the crazy-young age of late 30s, another in his 40s. We resolved to deliberately and aggressively make more time for “us”. One thing we’ve done for the past decade is to go somewhere far away every year and spend a couple weeks immersing ourselves in the culture and sharing the experience. Another is to internalize (take to heart) the notion that every passing day, hour, and minute is one less day, hour, and minute we’ll have together. Not in a morbid way; more in the “make a conscious effort to cherish the time we have together” way. Which we do even when we’re not traveling. It’s deepened our attachment and love in very fulfilling ways.

    On the subject of diet and exercise, remember that these are ways of living, not short-term fixes. They should become something you can sustain in the long-term. I exercise regularly both to increase the quality of whatever life I have remaining and because it lets me do things I’d otherwise be unable to do, like the 8-hour Tongariro hike (https://www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz/) that we did about a month back in New Zealand. Twenty years ago, this probably wouldn’t have been anything to worry about; now that I’m pushing 60, it took ongoing exercise sessions to make it something I didn’t have to worry about. And it was (pun not intended) a peak experience. We could have done it faster, but we spent a lot of time savoring the vistas instead of just powering through. Much better memories that way.

  13. Happy happy, John. You made it to 50. It’s not so bad, and it certainly beats the alternative (as we say in the clinical setting). That your body still responds to exercise is a good sign (and that you can exercise is also a good sign). Don’t forget to join the AARP and get your discount cards. And when the rapscallions bother you, shake your metaphorical cane at them and shout, “Youth is wasted in the young!” and then turn on the sprinklers.

  14. I joined the quinquagenarian club earlier this year. Membership has its privileges, which mostly seem to be feeling OK about yelling “Get off my lawn!” in various ways. Happy Birthday and many more to come!

  15. Happy Birthday, John!

    Thanks so much for this piece. I’m about to enter my 40s and have been feeling the same funk. But it’s nice to be able to have someone verbalize it better than I could have.

  16. To quote, IIRC, David Frum:
    Nothing is as grim as realizing that your death would no longer be referred to as “the tragic loss of a young life”.

    I hit 54 on the 9th and celebrated by riding 30 miles on the bicycle. Over the past 11 years I’ve dropped 60 pounds. I still need to lose another 10, at least, and at that I’ll still be 15 pounds over my Army weight.

    A friend of mine that I’ve known since I was 6 didn’t decide to try and take care of himself until 2 years ago, after the triple bypass and onset of diabetes. I’m already preparing myself for his funeral in a few years as he’s still in really bad shape. Things just piled up and he can’t catch up, nevermind getting ahead of it.

  17. Congratulations and just wait 15 years – turning 65 is another biggie I never thought it would affect me but am in a major funk – there days I care about the why and there I days I don’t. I think I need a Scalzi moment and ponder the why! (On a side not I am reading the Interdependencey, currently book 2, and can’t wait for the 3rd installment but will there be more than THREE?? )

  18. Good and honest post. I’m always in a hurry so I had my mid-life crisis early – between about the ages of 31 and 35. On and off. Jim was supportive and moving to Pittsburgh as the crisis wound down was very helpful, particularly since the company we’d both been dedicated to in the ’80s & early ’90s pretty much died after we left. Being there for that would have been extremely traumatic. These things happen to all of us – how we deal with them over the long haul matters. As they say “Old age is not for sissies.”

  19. Welcome to 50! I have to say my 50s have been kind to me so far (I’ll be 54 in July). As for being middle aged, it can be a good thing. Here’s a poem that was shared with me a few years ago that still resonates:

    Forseeing
    by Sharon Bryan

    Middle age refers more
    to landscape than to time:
    it’s as if you’d reached
    the top of a hill
    and could see all the way
    to the end of your life,
    so you know without a doubt
    that it has an end—
    not that it will have,
    but that it does have,
    if only in outline—
    so for the first time
    you can see your life whole,
    beginning and end not far
    from where you stand,
    the horizon in the distance—
    the view makes you weep,
    but it also has the beauty
    of symmetry, like the earth
    seen from space: you can’t help
    but admire it from afar,
    especially now, while it’s simple
    to re-enter whenever you choose,
    lying down in your life,
    waking up to it
    just as you always have—
    except that the details resonate
    by virtue of being contained,
    as your own words
    coming back to you
    define the landscape,
    remind you that it won’t go on
    like this forever.

    http://sharonbryanpoet.com/poems/

  20. I had a major crisis at 50, but it was the kind the world dishes out, not a result of my own choices. It was literally a life changing event, from which grew a new, improved version of me. That was 20 years ago and I’m happy, healthy, and physically active and totally amazed once more how great a fertilizer shit can be.

    To quote someone I admire very much, ‘live long and prosper’. Wishing you a very happy birthday, Mr. Scalzi!

  21. Yup. I’m 51 and this pretty much echoes what I went through at 50 as far as thought processes.

    I lost a lot of weight in my 40s (~120 lbs) and then gradually let about 50 of those creep back. As my 50th birthday approached I realized that I needed to get a handle on it and so here I am back on the horse, so to speak. It’s harder the 2nd time around, but it’s worth it. I don’t want to be like my 80 year old grandma who couldn’t stand up straight and rarely left her house.

    Good for you, John, for figuring out what it was and doing something about it. And congrats on the weight loss and fitness. :)

  22. Great post and Happy Birthday from a fellow Taurean! I turn 55 on the 18th and life is the best it’s ever been. My husband and I are very active, mountain biking, skiing and hiking but even so, the weight is hard to take off unless I diet strictly and count calories. And I love burritos and IPAs, which don’t help. So good for you, it’s not easy as you get older! But I am enjoying my 50’s so much, and am trying to stay ready for the curveballs:).

  23. I started exercising for reals at 44 and surprised myself by not quitting. I hit 50 last month and feel the same; excited to be where I’m at and looking forward what the future holds. Keep it up and welcome to decade #6 :)

  24. Nice explanation of a midlife crisis. I had my 1st one at 35 and then again at 70. I got sick at 35 and was medically repaired. At 70, I decided to move the bar (change my standard). Life markers are where you place them.

  25. Happy Birthday, John!

    Also, I hear from good authority that a midlife crisis can involve purchasing a number of musical instruments… [looks around at my 3 guitars, a uke, a banjo, closes web browser on fretless bass]

    But that’s just what I hear.

  26. Thank you for sharing and happy birthday! I’m glad your efforts have given you relief – in both physical and mental health.

    Keeping one’s body in working order seems to get harder every year, and if you let it slide, it just degrades.

  27. Happy Birthday, John, with many more to come.
    I had mine at fffforty, to the point where I couldn’t even say the word. All water under the bridge now. Congratulations on having reached your goal both physically & emotionally.

  28. Happy Birthday!

    I’m not sure how to phrase this without sounding corny – but as someone a couple years behind you, you’ve always managed to provide a lodestone for me to assess against. Not professionally obviously, but as a human who is successful, happy, and is doing good in the world.

    I hit the same ‘unhappy with my physical state’ in March and I’m now down 14lbs. Thank you for the inspiration to keep going.

  29. Forty wasn’t hard for me at all; fifty was very hard. Now, at sixty-six, I’m still startled when I notice that someone is treating me like an old lady. Case in point: medical checkups. Resident asks standard question for old ladies: Have you fallen recently? Me: Yes, took a bad spill last week while hiking. Resident: you were hiking? The curmudgeon in me wants to say: Yes, I knew I should’ve roped in when attempting a spring ascent, but it looked totally doable.

  30. Happy Milestone Birthday! It’s also great to read all the posts from people at all ages wishing you well and sharing their bouts of midlife crisis. (Mine was at 39 — my 50s have been great so far! 60 is approaching faster than I ever thought it could, however). May the decade ahead be filled with life lived to the fullest and peace and joy and all that good stuff.

  31. Happy Birthday! Looking forward to the next book tour/group fitness session! I’ll make sure they install a treadmill at The Last Bookstore for your appearance. What color headband would you prefer??

  32. Happy birthday John! I didn’t have that issue when I turned fifty but I have continually fought with being in shape and eating too many calories (being too damned fat). It is a continuing battle.

    Interesting that you wanted to be an astronomer. I wanted to be an astronaut (and still do, but not for lower Earth orbit missions). Do you do any amateur astronomy?

  33. Thank you for this lovely gift on your birthday. It’s delightful to watch someone who has control of their life do a good job of it.

    May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.

  34. Happy 50th. I’m currently in the New Orleans area helping my brother, who had a health scare last year, celebrate his 70th later this weekend so I agree that moving forward is the way to go.And, since you referenced a similar phrase:

  35. Happy Birthday John.
    (I should warn you though – browser technology is snarky about your milestone. The tab reads… “50 – Whatever”…)

  36. Happy Birthday — welcome to the club! Delighted you fixed your crisis by literally using mind over matter. You continue to provide inspiration for rational humans everywhere.

    I marked turning 50 less rationally, with a 50K mountain trail race. Satisfying, but not nearly as sustainable for the future.

  37. Congrats on reaching 50 (and overcoming your recent bought of funk). I assume that explains why there’s been fewer burrito tweets lately? In any case, will see you at the Nebulas next weekend (and I’m available to provide transportation for an In and Out run if you have the inclination).

  38. First, I’m so glad this was not hardcore depression. Second, Happy Birthday, as so many upstream have said, you have made our lives richer and smarter and more amusing.

    You have hit the target when saying “it’s about health, man!” 50 is when you start hearing “well, at your age” from every practitioner you encounter. But since you are working at your health and sparing your joints that extra 20 pounds (and don’t smoke either), I think you will loooove your fifties. I sold my car and started walking everywhere, which magically knocked off 15 pounds.

    And also, you love and are loved, which is really really good for mind and body.

  39. Mine came about 2 years ago when I was approaching 55. Just going to the gym wasn’t doing it for me, so I took up competing again, figuring that getting humiliated by children would give me the necessary motivation. It worked! I got in much better shape, and then started doing well in age group competitions, which gave me even further incentive, so I’ve now cut out most of the junk food and lost another 20 pounds. Which is good, because diabetes runs in the family.

  40. Happy birthday! I beat you by a couple of weeks. Good for you for being introspective and proactive. Taking care of yourself is important, so I’ll tell you what a friend told me: Happy 50th! Remember, it’s time to schedule your inaugural colonoscopy. :)

  41. Thanks for talking about this publicly. I think 50 blew by and I noted it in passing but no big deal. Now I am 77 and that IS a big deal. In the last two years a number of health issues have slammed me hard and I am dealing with them, but part of that will some lifestyle changes which I DO NOT want to make. The battle between what I can do vs. what I want to do continues…. Clearly everyone has his or her own life crisis and you have managed yours well. Makes me happy! Write on!

  42. This is an amazing post, Mr. Scalzi. Your vulnerability with others and practical outlook about yourself are what make you the amazing writer and human being that you are. Well done having the courage to take the time to self-reflect about what was going wrong in your life, and well done for having the courage to do something about it. Happy Birthday!

  43. Having a decade or so on you, John, I’ve learned something about the whole “things I’ll probably never do, paths I can no longer turn on” sensation.

    I’ve learned to love it.

    When you’re young, you have a seeming-infinite array of choices about your life’s paths, and the “main” path you’re building versus the byways you explore that might become the new main path. Okay, if you’re not born with a particular type of mind, talent, or physique, you may have to come to terms early with never being able to sing a star role at the Metropolitan Opera, stand on the gold winner’s platform at the olympics, or discover the equation that will unlock a new theory of time and turn quantum physics on its head.

    But basically, as you’re squalling around eating cheerios and putting your ring toy together, you can pretty much count on (or your parents can count on for you) almost any kind of life you’re willing to put in the focus and effort to achieve.

    Every year, those options narrow. Sorry, it became clear by the time you were ten that no, you’ll never manage to be a child prodigy at the piano- those six years of lessons may not have been a waste, but… Sorry, by the time you were of an age to graduate from high school, it’s become clear your chances of winning a Rhodes Scholarship have dropped to zero. Sorry, by the time you got that social work PhD, your chances of becoming the whiz kid of Wall Street hit a vanishing point.

    And so on, and so on.

    But the array is SO large. And the cultural belief that with hard work and strength of purpose and maybe just a smidgen of luck we can do ANYTHING persists, and persists, and persists. Especially for those of us who don’t have a strong inclination toward a particular life course/activity, matched with the talent and/or resources to achieve success there. We bumble along doing whatever gets us a decent living and some time off to have a little fun and keep the idea that “hey, we can always change course and do THAT WONDERFUL THING” when the mysterious Time is Right.

    And then one day wake up and realize nope, the mysterious time never came, never will come, and now our array of options is much more limited.

    You can do one of two things with that: Keen in existential angst over What Should Have Been and Will Never Be, or look at the smaller array of options and think, “Waitaminnit… is there any way to actually optimize the possible? What would that look like?”

    It’s not a case of “settling” or “second best”. If you approach it right, you can apply all the same levels of awareness, focus, discipline and effort to living a great life with fewer options. Doing better with the options you choose. Finding the hidden rewards. The roads less taken. The successes that matter to you, not to some score-keeping reputational Facebook algorithm.

    Being less concerned with bragging rights and more concerned with what you’re grateful for at the end of every day.

    And then you realize yep, happiness DOES come in many forms, and the more you focus on it, the better it gets, no matter which form you’re working in.

    Fewer options can lead to more reward from the option(s) you select and consciously spend discipline and interest and practice time and investment on.

    You, John, have the joy of being really good at something you’re inclined to do and enjoy doing. You’ve done it long and well enough to make a good living out of it, too. That doesn’t mean you can’t make choices in a narrowing path that will still bring you great happiness and feelings of fulfillment. And if that comes from being able to stretch, bend over to pick something off the floor without a twinge, walk a couple of miles for the sheer pleasure of it, throw a frisbee for the dog without worrying about your shoulder, etc., well, that, too can be an exquisite pleasure worth savoring.

    I suspect you are going to be an AMAZING grandpa some not-too-distant day. Lucky you.

  44. It’s a good thing to get a good habit starting to offset aging. I started karate at 40 and I’m in better shape at 44 than I was at 39. And I love it.

  45. Well that was all stupendously relatable. I’m 48 now, but about a year ago I had a very similar thought process – especially, it’s not going to get easier to lose weight or get fit at any point in the future.

    I do wonder something though. You base this a lot in how you looked, and how you felt about that. I find that exercising regularly does wonders for my mental health, in and of itself. It’s not about how I look really (although I’ve lost something like 35 pounds so far) – that’s the side effect. The regular exercise is the thing.

    I know this because if I go more than two days without, I start to feel all of that creeping back in (and I’m blessed with an extra-stressful life at the moment). Have a good workout, and things get right back on track. It’s a really clear cause and effect.

  46. Too Old To Die Young
    My take on turning 50 (12 years ago) came from Jethro Tull: “Too Old to Rock and Roll; Too Young to Die.” Somehow, I think you’ll continue to Rock and Roll. :-)

    Happy 50th!!

  47. Happy birthday, and thank you for a couple of decades of entertaining books and enjoyable Whatever.

  48. Several years ago, after I resubscribed to the magazines I get, I started getting Star as a “free gift for you”. (For those not familiar with “Star”, it’s celebrity news for those who find “People” too intellectual.) I usually trashed it unread, pitching it into the recycling bin on my way into the house from the mailbox without even glancing at it.

    But one day I added it to the pile of mail to go through, and the next afternoon ended up glancing at the cover as I went through the pile taking care of things that needed taking care of. The cover story was some pop singer starlet with a first name that I was supposed to recognize (but didn’t; pop stars aren’t my thing). Below her name was picture of her grocery shopping in a pair of sweats, along with a caption that said “Look Who’s Given Up!”

    My firs thought was that wearing sweats to the grocery store is a remarkably sensible thing to do. My second, though, was to look at myself–retired guy here–who was wearing a pair of sweats that I had been wearing all day that were so old and baggy it looked like I was rocking a full diaper, and thinking “self, that caption does seem to apply to you. It’s one thing to be comfortable. It’s another thing to be like that other retired guy you saw when you were out last week, the one wearing pajama bottoms and bedroom slippers in the grocery store–and you’re starting to move into his world.”

    I ended up going through my clothes and throwing out about 90% of them–things that were thread-worn, faded, stretched out of shape, didn’t fit, were years out of style (one thing about being retired is that you can get away with never buying clothes, and I hadn’t for about a decade at that point)–and replacing them with real clothes. I also decided to dress as an adult every day–real shirt/sweater, pants, and real shoes (not gym shoes), only wearing sweats/gym shorts/gym shoes when I was actually exercising. This wasn’t expensive–Target/Walmart/Kohl’s are pretty cheap for basics, and basics were a huge improvement over how I had been dressing.

    I also got serious about my physical health. I’d always been physically active, at least partially attributable to a misspent youth that included a number of years in the military, and had always tried to be a gym rat. I realized I had no excuses–I had the time, and convenient facilities to engage again. So I started paying strict attention to what I was eating (picked a strict paleo diet, but there are so many possibilities out there) and got serious about pushing myself physically again.

    Bottom line–three years on I look like an adult when I leave the house, am in substantially better physical shape than I have been for years, and all in all feel much better about myself.

  49. A 23 year old would be an embarrassing down grade. A convertible sports car on the other hand…
    Happy Birthday!

  50. Happy birthday! I am almost exactly one year behind you. Your posts about your weight and exercise have almost (not quite, quite there but so close) convinced me that I need to start doing the same thing. And that’s impressive because, like you, I hate exercise. Why exercise when you can read a book? Your comments about feeling better in general are motivations. Thank you for sharing them.

  51. Happy Birthday, John! I hit that milestone next year. Best wishes to you and yours

  52. Happy 50th Birthday, and welcome to the club. There are a lot of good things about it, and quite honestly, I would not want to be young again. The younger generation are really up against it these days, and things are a lot tougher than when I was growing up. Perhaps there are things that are no longer on the table, but there are also the things that you never have to go through again. Onwards and upwards, and all the best to you.

  53. I’m 65, and yesterday was my last *last* LAST day of work. I have no more excuse of being ‘too tired to exercise’. Been downhill since 2000 when I got very sick, never really got back to 100% ‘healthy’. ‘No more excuses’ will be the thing.

    Congratulations on turning 50, and the successful weight loss. Now get back to that next novel and blow us all away, John. ;-)

  54. Happy birthday, John! I am really happy that you are happy and wish you stay that way forever. I’m looking forward to your great many books and blog posts ahead.

  55. In my anecdotal experience I backed by reviewing data, there are two age groups that dominate the field at footraces – the college-age track/cross-country teams, and the 50+ “masters” runners.

    (Back when I was one of the college-age track/cross-country kids, I always eyed the Masters runners with a mix of admiration and fear, wondering how thoroughly they were going to make my best efforts like tortoise-like.)

    I realize that running is not “your thing” so much as “a thing you’re doing”, but you’re now at an age where, if you keep with it, you too may eventually strike terror into the hearts of runners much younger than you. Which might be a fun athletic translation of “Get off my lawn!” :)

  56. Happy birthday! And that’s a great summary of the soul searching/navel contemplation that I went through as I neared 50, also.

  57. Yay for 50! Glad you discovered what you needed to refresh your positivity. I am closing in on 52, and 2 years ago I stared Karate. It is never too late to begin a new journey. I am making my way to black belt and plan to be there by the time I am 60.

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