By Brian Clarey

On Monday, my 50th birthday, I did what I always do on my birthday: I went to work.

And, of course, by “went” I mean walked to the kitchen table in the clothes I slept in and opened my laptop.

Just as work has changed during this strangest of times, so has the notion of celebrating a birthday, no matter its significance.

I’m never one to make a huge deal out of my own birthday, certainly the last 10 of them. It’s a totally random anniversary whose main significance is as an identifying factor when I’m filling out online forms.

But 50 is a true milestone. People started taking me a lot more seriously after I turned 40, but 50… man, 50 has real gravitas. Fifty gets its own Roman numeral. Surviving 50 winters is a real accomplishment, totally worth celebrating in style.

I had planned to go to Italy with my wife. I was going to eat my way through Kansas City with my college roommates. We were going to refinance the house, remodel the kitchen, dress up the patio. I was considering a new pair of shoes. None of that happened.

Yesterday I considered wandering my neighborhood looking for stuffed bears in the windows. Instead I just watched the last episode of “Ozark” and went to bed.

The real gift that comes from surviving 50 years of haste, addiction, ill-advised decisions, stubborn integrity, hard loving and the pursuit of happiness is — no shit — the friends I’ve made along the way.

I put the call out on Facebook: In lieu of gifts, I asked my people to donate to Triad City Beat, the thing to which I devote my professional time, most of my energy and almost all of my marbles.

The response was enough to give a cynical old man pause: Friends from high school kicked in, someone I worked with at the mall when I was a teenager, people from my college newspaper, friends from the New Orleans bars, pals from the school pick-up line, colleagues from almost every paper I ever worked at and family members who have been supporting my habit for the written word since I was very small.

When I was a young man, I thought 50 sounded pretty old. And I guess it is, because I’ve lived a dozen lifetimes since the day I was born. And on Monday, I had occasion to remember them all.

At 50, memories are more precious that most everything else.

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