Pre-blog disclaimer: This is about turning 50. There was a time in my life that I really didn’t think I would make it all the way to 50 – which means I feel like posting this four days prior is a serious test of karma. If the ship goes down sometime between now and then – please make sure you drink an extra glass of wine for me in acknowledgement of that hilarious irony.
Here it comes…the big one.
Or is it the next big one?
I feel like turning 21 was the big one.
And, yet, here I am again – this time at the half-century mark.
Is this when I start my mid-life crisis? What do women do for that? I don’t really want a Corvette. Or a younger version of Rich. I’ve already plumped my lips this year – yes, in a year when we’re all wearing masks… so…maybe didn’t think that one through. Nothing dramatic though, just wanted to get a little peek at what my top lip used to look like before it retreated with my youth. We can talk about that, right? When we primp or get prodded for a little zap of feeling better? Or is that supposed to be a secret? I’m still figuring life out.
I keep waiting for a feeling of dread to overtake me, but it has yet to show. Not that I’m staked out, arms wide open, to welcome in the presumed second half of my life – but it just hasn’t slid into the category of a big deal yet. Actually, it has a little – with last year’s birthday cancelled and a chaser of every dang thing else cancelled for the next twelve months, yes, it is a big deal. I do want to celebrate – I want to celebrate my patience and flexibility and ability to roll with the punches over the last year. How handy that I happen to have a birthday showing up at game time.
It’s probably no surprise that I’m now recollecting my other momentous cakes. When I turned twenty-one, midway through college, I was still behaving very un-college like. I was the young adult who insisted on waiting until my license turned into my drinking pass to test out my liquid options. And, man, did I test them out. On the whole, my twenties were hard. They came with the end of a long gymnastics career. They came with my parents moving 400 miles away from my close-to-home college. They came with my first love, who I likely should have kept around only briefly but instead stayed with way too long and with whom I compromised on way too many things – slowly chipping away at the pieces that were me. I had a terrible time grasping the whole post-degree-full-time job thing, driven by not feeling ready for actual adulthood. Would I ever be ready? The decade came to a close with the (finally!) break up everyone had been waiting for and with me feeling lost enough in my life to pack up all my belonging and follow that 400 mile path to my parents. If they wanted to move the nest, well couldn’t I go find it? It was probably a cop-out, but by then I couldn’t even imagine a life in which I made it to fifty, let alone thirty, so off I went.
When I turned thirty, well, it was awesome. I was so glad to get there. Did I mention how hard my twenties were? I was thrilled to face thirty knowing that it just couldn’t possibly be filled with the same trials. I felt the dread that had planted itself on me in the previous decade lift, sure that I would finally be able to stop looking to the sky and screaming no, this actually IS more than I can handle!! I was super involved in the local Jaycees chapter – a lifesaver when I left my parents’ home and moved an hour north to Raleigh. I discovered the joy of service work, the thrill of living in the middle of a state obsessed with sports and fell in love with the more relaxed pace of life below the Mason Dixon. I discovered exactly how far out of your comfort zone you could get via airplanes and cruise ships, getting my passport stamped in fifteen or so countries. In a matter of years, I’d gone from being the brave new girl in town (who cried into her pillow) to one who could not move beyond my neighborhood without running into someone I knew. It went exactly as I’d hoped – my thirties were so much better than my twenties.
And then came forty. With a reality smack in the head. As my birthday approached in 2011, the future I’d always assume would happen began to get incredibly blurry. It was as if I woke up one day and realized all the things I’d forgotten to do. I hadn’t gotten married. I hadn’t really even done any serious dating. I hadn’t had kids nor did I know anyone to make that awkward promise with (if neither of us are married at forty…). Forty arrived so quickly – the previous decade passing with a blink. It felt very lonely. I had just purchased a house, by myself – something I should have been so proud of. But all I could think was that its purchase was really big and important and that I had no one to share it with on an intimate level. Wasn’t house buying something that married couples did? I felt resigned. Had I paid too much attention to the travel bug? I loved looking through the albums (albums, children, are where our pictures lived before smart phones and Facebook), telling the stories – but then I’d wonder if it was weird that these were all trips taken as a third wheel with my parents. Weren’t these the kinds of adventures I should have been doing with a soul mate? That was the bit that kept taking the wind out of my sails. I adopted a dog (yay!) but didn’t have anyone to laugh with me at her antics. I adopted a cat (yay!) but, oh wait, was I turning into a crazy cat lady? Forty. That was a hard one. That was the one where I settled into the idea of my life being what it was – a place I enjoyed but definitely not what I’d imagined.
And now. Five-Oh. 50. What I wouldn’t give to be lonely, again. Just for like five minutes. Go to the bathroom without someone yelling to ascertain my location. That was swept out the door a mere two years into my lonely forties as life took a turn and brought me into what would be my most important decade of all (my) time. Do I feel angst at fifty? Not at all – I feel proud. My forties were hard. I know, that sounds just like my twenties, right? But adult hard is completely different than barely-an-adult hard when all the things that seem soooooo important were really just not. My forties were also easy – another decade that ended in the blink of an eye that witnesses so much. A slower blink – one in which I can playback most of the happenings as I close my lid and then collapse into a nap from exhaustion. Don’t panic, I’m mostly not going to play This Is Your Life – if you don’t already know this life, just head back here. I thought about playing This Is Your Life when I came across a meme a few weeks ago (actually, I have no idea if it was a meme or a gif or if we just call it a picture or an inspirational pillow or what). It read:
Don’t ask me how old I am. Age is irrelevant. Ask me how many sunsets I’ve seen, hearts I’ve loved, trips I’ve taken, or concerts I’ve been to. That’s how old I am. (Joelle)
Oh gosh, when you put it that way…I have lived. LIVED! And all of this done before the half century mark! I’ve been hired 12 times and fired zero (though I did get written up once – I was mortified). I’ve lived in four states covering 18 houses/apartments/dorms. I’ve known deep love twice – but the current one is my favorite and the one that will go the distance. I have five tattoos, eight piercings and no regrets. I’ve had an uncountable number of broken hearts. I was a teen in the 80’s, it was devastating to receive no return letters from my crushes (Nick Rhodes, I’m talking to you). Right. I said I wouldn’t do this. But really, no regrets. When I think about things I might pass on to others – that is likely the most important. Live a life without regret. That doesn’t mean sitting at the library on a Saturday night – that means DO things knowing that you might not be thrilled with your decisions later. Just DO. Do it because you are always right where you are supposed to be. Do it because you don’t want to look at fifty without a bagful of stories to tell. Also, since my kids pop in here on occasion…Do it without getting arrested or maimed and try not to hurt anyone else and don’t forget, you can call at any hour and we will come pick you up.
Why do we ask kids to write down what they would want to tell themselves in the future? How would a grade schooler know what to tell their fifty year old version? Make sure you have an extra crayon sharpener? A better question might be to ask our kids what their fifty year old version would tell them now. Which sounds a lot like what do you wish teenage you knew? Except, in this instance, teenage you is pre-filling in those blanks – perhaps building a road map to a life filled with wins. It might also spark something in those pesky hormone spiked brains that would trigger a passing thought of oh, wait, there are fifty year olds in my life now who were teenagers once, maybe they do know some things.
Just kidding. I’m turning fifty, not into an idiot.
That was a long block to go around in order to jot down a few things I have learned.
Come on. You had to know this was coming.
I’ve learned to slow down my thinking.
I’ve learned that deciding what you think others mean and running with it is much worse than just asking for clarification. People generally have good intentions. The others will weed themselves out without your interrogation.
I’ve learned to stop using jumping to conclusions as my primary form of exercise.
I’ve learned to not get wrapped up in the dang drama.
I learned to eliminate the riff raff and pull in those who have more interest in supporting the people around them than besting them.
I’ve learned that opening your heart and getting burned is way, way, way better than closing people off.
I’ve learned to stop asking for perfection – especially from myself. Almost.
I’ve learned that rating my worth on whether I had fruits or fries was stupid. I’ve learned that not everybody gets to be a size six and I’m working towards not caring (there’s always next decade).
I’ve learned that asking for help does not equate to failure, that it’s actually quite the opposite.
I’ve learned to love. Even myself. Usually.
I’ve learned to leave people with their thoughts rather than shoving mine down their throats with hopes that they’d agree with me.
I’ve learned that you can lead a horse to water but that I’m really bad at idioms and probably should shy away from them.
I’ve learned that writing can be incredibly therapeutic and that having people enjoy your writing is both exciting and terrifying.
I’ve learned how to cook about a bajillion things after spending four decades swearing by things that come in a box.
I’ve learned that I should go ahead and knock on wood just to make sure karma doesn’t get me in the next four days.
I’ve learned that when I’m feeling cranky, there is often a cause that is not my husband – such as hunger or lack of sleep or anxiety or bloating. I’ve learned to wait a day just to make sure that it really is my husband, at which time, I’m typically not cranky anymore. Possibly because I ate. Or had a good night’s sleep.
I’ve learned that sometimes I have no idea how to end a blog.
But before I do, tell me – what have you learned?