I hadn’t paid any attention to the Clone Wars animated series when The Mandalorian arrived on Disney+ toward the end of 2019. But when I saw the last scene, and immediately saw “Darksaber” trending on Twitter, it was time to hop on Wikipedia. And this thing has an interesting history. It was the original saber of the first (and only) Mandalorian ever to become a Jedi, and how it wound up with a shaped blade – especially a black one crackling with white energy along the edge – has not been explained to me in any way. The interesting thing about it is that it’s more a symbol than a weapon: the wielder is probably not a Force user and of necessity will not be able to use it to deflect blaster bolts or summon it to their hand, and to be honest there’s a non-zero chance they will chop off a limb trying to wield it. But it’s a mark of authority, of the person who has done what is necessary to take charge and be responsible for leadership.

I hadn’t planned on owning one. I already have two lightsabers – one built myself almost two years ago in the first week of Galaxy’ Edge at Disneyland, and one replica of Mace Windu’ saber that was a wedding gift from my lovely bride. But after escaping from a First Order star destroyer – twice – and successfully purloining four containers of coaxium fuel from under the nose of the Empire, I waved one around in Dok Ondar’ Den of Antiquities and reluctantly concluded that while intriguing, I couldn’t justify it. At which point, my wife slapped down a few hundred credits and bought it for me anyway.

I am not a Jedi, despite my best efforts since 1978. A saber that is specifically for a non-Jedi seems more my speed, not least because the blade looks vaguely cutlass-like – appropriate for Vanderbilt. A black blade is a good pair for my gold one. And I’ve spent the last three weeks at work making a bit of an ass of myself in the cause of trying to wrench myself and my team out of a fatal nosedive led by people incompetent to make the decisions they’re forcing on us. More than once I’ve wondered whether I am engaged in a resume-generating event, and decided that if they fire me I’ll thank them for making it easy on me.

We are at a nodal point. Our life has shifted under us in ways we did not expect. Our living arrangements are soon to change; we’ll probably be moving house and if we don’t, we’ll be taking on new residents. Family caretaking has come to a conclusion, painfully so, and various family dilemmas have been resolved one way or another. And as for Alabama – well, to coin a phrase, I have to give people the opportunity to be their better selves. Especially if I want to be true to the value system with which I’ve emerged from the last five years or so. My habits have changed too – while I smoked a cigar on the birth of a new relative, I didn’t have any urge to follow it up with another. Despite the consumption of a lot of Coke Zero from the 7-Eleven in 2020, I definitely prefer iced tea and warm coffee to keeping more soda in the house. I’m still drinking non-alcoholic craft beers weeks after Lent ended. And my hat choice is a cotton twill adjustable if it’s not fog weather, and it’s as likely as not representing Birmingham or San Jose rather than Vanderbilt.

Maybe this is what 50 means. You know who you are, you know what you want, and you have a simple bill of requirements for how you’re going to live your life. After all, when the doors start to close and life starts taking more than it gives you, it’s not the worst thing to know that the main thing you want out of life is wrapped up in an Adirondack chair by the backyard fire pit at sundown, with baseball on a screen or speaker somewhere and a full Yeti in one hand and your sweetie in the other chair.

This is the way. Or at least, it is now.

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