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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

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like landing a man on the moon
november 24, 2000

I turned fifty today.

I'm half a century old.

This birthdate is frightening only if you're young. When I was in my teens, I could never, ever imagine myself being this old. Fifty was too close to death, too far from the excitement of being a teenager. Those I knew who were old, meaning above thirty, seemed almost a separate race, an undignified people who didn't read or hold meaningful conversations, who wandered around with pot bellies and balding heads in badly-cut clothes, like giant toddlers who had somehow, inexplicably, been given control of the world.

I first felt my own mortality when I turned twenty-five. I was sitting in my suit at my desk, one of dozens in a beautiful, high-vaulted marble chamber in the Bridgeport, Connecticut bank where I worked, and realized I didn't like my job, was never going to like my job, and was probably going to be stuck in that job until I turned sixty-five.

For the first time in my life, I felt real depression. It seemed like out of all the infinite possible ways I had imagined, while a teenager, I might make money, to be able to continue to have the good time I was having, but now be on my own, all of the possibilities exciting and emotionally rewarding, I had somehow managed to fall into the dullest, most demeaning job of all. Plus it paid so little there was almost nothing left over after rent and food.

So what did I do? Something that seemed, in my mind-set then, almost logistically impossible, like landing a man on the moon. I moved from Connecticut to California.

Where did I wind up? In an industrial park in Santa Barbara, doing piece work for a small company that manufactured credit card readers (the box with a slot on top your card gets swooped through at the cash register).

I was making even less money than before, and the rents were higher, but I had learned an important lesson, and it was exhilarating.

I had control over my own life.

If I didn't like something in my life, I could change it.

In the years that followed, that's exactly what I did, and what I've continued doing. I've never felt depressed since.

Even at turning fifty, which I see as a badge of honor.

No matter who you are, or what you've done with your life, or not done, there is some merit in the simple accomplishment of having made it this far. Not everyone does.

After fifty years, what's the most important thing I've learned?

Things work out.

No matter how hopeless a situation may appear to be, it does, eventually, change. And when it does, it's almost always for the better. If you graph your life, you'll get dips and spikes, but the overall trend is upwards.

Don't get discouraged by first drafts.