The New 60
BY Robert Levithan
April 25 2011 3:50 PM ET
I share my birth date with my friend Joel Grey. On our birthday, April 11th, “Joel Grey’s New York,” an exhibit of his brilliant photographs of our beloved city, opened at the Museum of the City of New York. He is currently starring in a revival of Anything Goes, and directing a production of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart that will also open on Broadway this month. Not bad for a guy who’s 79!
Now that I am actually 60, I’m no longer afraid of being 60. I celebrated for a week: lunch, brunch, dinner, theatre, sex, work, party for 90 people, more lunch, dinner. I’d been writing about this milestone for a full year. I‘d been thinking about it for far longer.
I woke up the day after and…oh, right, turning 60 isn’t a big deal. The meaning of the number was an idea, a story I’d been told and bought into and was telling myself—that this birthday would matter, that I’d be changed irrevocably.
No. I’m just a day older—and I can no longer die “tragically young.”
I remain grateful for having been on the planet for 60 years, for the perspective that comes from living history, not just studying it as I did at college. But Joel’s life reminds me that I might just have another chapter or two ahead. What’s next?
One section of Joel’s exhibit is a wall-size time line of his career. He’s had quite a ride: nightclubs, theater, movies, TV, concerts, experimental theatre, photography—picking up an Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy along the way. Joel is one of my inspirations. He exemplifies the wisdom of happiness: Appreciate the past—and be truly engaged in the present.
Aging with grace means finding what one is doing now the most interesting thing in one’s already interesting life. I have had some pretty heady experiences as a performer, a teacher, a shrink, and now as a writer. My history is a platform, yet I am most excited about my current projects: writing this column and continuing to work face-to-face with clients, looking for the next space to buy and design, discovering my next relationship—exploring, as of yet, unrealized ambitions.
Even though I have already accomplished my number one goal: to have that interesting life with some meaning to myself and, I hope, to others, I am certainly not writing my obit. I am summing up six decades as I roll up my sleeves and revel in the great fortune of entering my seventh decade in good health, engaged and curious about what is coming and how I can meet it in the most creative way.
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