Well, my friends.. I made it!!..
Today, I turned 50..
Half a century on the surface of this Earth... Whether this is as significant a landmark as some might want to make it, is matter of contention for me..
For one, I do not feel any different today from what I was yesterday.. nor what I was a year ago.. Nevertheless, I guess it is an opportunity to pause and take stock..
It all started one spring day, fifty years ago, in Damascus.. My parents have been married for just under 9 months (Yes.. I was a Wedding-day baby!..).. My Mum was desperately worried that my arrival will coincide with her final-year exams, and completely ruin her chances of graduating from University that year.. However, being a considerate soul, at a great risk to my personal safety, I decided to come to this World a couple of weeks too soon, much the delight of my mother.. This way, Mum would have the time to get over the trauma of my greatly anticipated arrival, and still have time to get back in shape to pass her finals!.. And so it was..
My childhood was happy and fulfilled.. My parents, both working, have instilled in me the importance of education, and the value of honest, hard work and perseverance.. They taught me, more by example than by instruction, that if anything is worth having, then it is worth working for..
My brother, four years younger than me, and my sister, eleven years my junior, both made my formative years that much richer and that much more enjoyable.. Both continue to be a constant source of inspiration, support and friendship..
I battled my way through schools and University, got married shortly after I qualified, and the long, hard struggle we call 'Life' goes on.. My eldest daughter was born 16 months later, while I was working in Beirut.. Later on, the raging Civil War, and the Israeli invasion of 1982, force us to leave Lebanon.. and life takes us back to Damascus for while, then to Britain, after a brief and unsuccessful attempt to find training in the States.. Our twins, now nearly 21, were born after we moved to the UK...
After numerous ups and downs, and after a few more battles, from which I bear many a scar, I got to where I am today..
So, what have I got to show for my 50 years?.. What have I actually achieved??.. and what have I learnt?.. Do I have any regrets?.. Are there things I wish I hadn't done?.. and perhaps, on a more positive note, what should my targets be for the coming years??...
Professionally, I am pleased to say that I am both content and proud of what I have achieved.. I, even if I say so myself, am a respected and well-regarded practitioner in a complex and challenging field, working in a Department that is widely believed to be the best in the Region, and arguably in the Country.. I teach on various Speciality courses, locally, regionally, and nationally, and I examine on the Royal College exams in our Speciality.. Not bad for someone who, after all, is an outsider!..
On a personal level, I am, undoubtedly, the luckiest man alive... I have a beautiful loving wife, three bright, hard-working, and high-achieving children, and I have my health and my sanity (although many would argue about the latter!..).. I ask you, what more could a man ask for?...
But, surely, there must be some regrets?.. Some things I would like to have done differently?.. Some targets that I wanted to achieve, but failed?.. You're damn right there are!..
I, for example, would have loved to be solvent by the age of fifty!.. I would have loved to have paid up my mortgage!.. but, alas, that was not to be.. With three children in University, I guess I will have to work till I am seventy to keep up with the payments!..
Which brings me to the other unfulfilled target.. I would have loved to have my retirement plans completely in order by the time I reached fifty.. Mind you, I have always known that I am not exactly the most organised man on the Planet.. Leaving things to the last minute has always been my style!..
Regrets?.. Well.. Ever since I was in Third Form, I have regretted calling that bully, Hassan Kalthoum, 'an idiot' to his face!.. I can still feel the painful fat lip, and I can still taste the blood in my mouth!.. Mind you, that experience does not seem to have taught me much!.. I still stand up to bullies, and I still, on occasions, get a bloody nose for my efforts!..
I regret wasting so much time of my life trying to get training in the States.. I was chasing a mirage, and I should have known it at the time.. even if it wasn't that obvious then.. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn't it?!..
I regret buying that second-hand Ford Sierra Estate in 1987, from that Fredo Corleone lookalike.. If there ever was a car that can be described as a 'lemon', then it was that one!..
I very much regret not learning German or French, and regret not persevering with my early attempts to learn playing a musical instrument... I still hope that, one day, I will learn to play the saxophone, and I have not quite given up on French or German...
Anyway.. here I am.. Fifty, but not over the hill.. at least, not that I would admit it... I am, in fact, fitter than I was two or three years ago.. I have overcome my lumbar disc prolapse, and my back pain.. I now work out regularly, running up to six miles twice a week.. I have managed to regain my fitness, and return to my ideal weight.. well, almost... My efforts to reach that particular target were comprehensively thwarted by the most amazing feast that my wife had prepared yesterday, when she invited a few of our friends over...
And I tell you something, it was worth going through 50 years of 'life', just to be rewarded with that delightful food!...