Not every woman hitting the BIG birthday is completely lost. But a quick search confirms that for most of us, we approach the big 5-0 in a weird limbo where all we have is confusion, regret, doubt and never-ending questions.
Is this all there is?
How the hell did I get here?
Just yesterday we graduated from high school and college.
Just yesterday we met the boy of our dreams and set out to change the world.
Just yesterday we had our kids and started a family.
Just yesterday we were making big plans for our future.
We should have figured all of this out by now, right? We should have our shit together by now … RIGHT?
The American Dream Storybook
What storybook did you develop in your mind back when you were 18? What about 25?
What about when you had your kids? Bought a house? Landed the perfect job?
Back at 18, the world painted a rosy picture and bought it hook, line, and sinker. I wanted it all: college degree, great job, man of my dreams, perfect life, … and they lived happily ever after, thank you very much.
And I’ll have to admit, from the outside, my life followed the storybook pretty well.
And it wasn’t bad.
Many years ago, a mentor suggested that the only way to be happy is to be happy with the now. If you need something – anything – to find happiness, it will always be just out of reach.
So I’ve strived for that. What can I do today to make me happy? What can I do today to like my life a little bit more?
Chapter One – Career
I worked retail all through college. One day, the job called and asked if I could fill in for someone. I said no, I was busy. My parents caught wind of it and I spent several long minutes being lectured about giving your all to your job. “They provide for you,” they said. “They give you what you need to survive,” they told me.
But their words didn’t hold through to reality.
For years, my father had to reinterview for a job he’d held with a company for more than two decades. He set his eyes on the prize – retire early at 55 and find something better to do. His stress grew beyond belief. He changed. He hated it all.
And he didn’t make it. He died just short of his 55th birthday.
Should we give it all to a company? Should we give it all to a career?
Today I watch friends and acquaintances around me following in my dad’s footsteps. They’re giving it all to a job that won’t have their backs. They are holding out for a magical pay date in the future. I wish them luck, I really do.
I’ve chosen another path, filled with its own glories and challenges. I learned early that in some cases, “What’s Next?” may not be around.
Because life’s too short not to do what you choose to do. There are so many options, so many things to do, so many things to share, to sit back and do a job just for the money isn’t right. We’ve been taught it’s good by the company. But for our health, our sanity, I think not. There are other ways …
Chapter Two – Relationships
Relationships are hard. They are the most excruciating, challenging, overwhelming things we’ll ever work at.
After thirty years of marriage, I can tell you I’ve experienced every emotion, been on a roller coaster up and down, fallen in love and been filled with “hate” so many times, I’ve lost track.
I’m asked a lot what the “secret” is to a long relationship. My go-to answer now is: choosing not to get divorced.
This is what love looks like. We have good days and bad. We like each other. And sometimes we don’t. We get each other. And sometimes we’re both on completely different pages.
But I respect him more than anyone. I understand him. I know who he is deep inside.
He still surprises me. We work hard to keep things exciting. I work all the time to keep myself at my best, because I know only then will I have anything to give back to him.
I’ve chosen him. I’ve chosen to make this work. And through the ups and downs, I know he’s chosen this path too.
Chapter Three – Our Bodies
I’m packing for a much-needed trip to Mexico. It’s a celebration of my birthday and the final payment of my daughter’s college tuition. We did it! We gave her the degree!
As I’m buying new sundresses and new swimming gear, I’ve started having a little doubt.
What am I supposed to look like at 50? My 30-year-old self read all the guidelines and tried to play the part. But somewhere in my 40s, I said: “what the hell.” Why not do things just because I choose to?
I don’t believe in anti-aging. I prefer proaging – I’m all about living my best life now! I know the end can come way too early and I’m living each day to the fullest.
I’m vegan. I work out. I take care of myself. I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of hours learning about eating and living a healthy lifestyle.
But can I wear a bikini when I’m on the beaches of Mexico? Do I look good enough?
Yep, being human sucks sometimes. Because all of the information thrown at you over the years comes creeping back into your mind. And as I slid on that first bathing suit, my mind went into overload: No WAY! You’re too “fill in the blank.” Trust me, I did.
I mentioned it to my husband one night. And when he said: “Yes, Please! Wear the bikini. Show me some skin!” I knew I’d be okay.
I’m celebrating fifty-three. And no matter how much I workout or work on my image, I’ll still be fifty-three. That comes with a little jiggle here and a little movement there. That’s okay. I look pretty good for a person my age.
We all have so much to worry about, why do we keep worrying about what everyone else thinks? Why can’t we for one moment just BE because it’s what we want?
Chapter Four – Our Lives
It’s terrifying, isn’t it? We’ve gotten here all on our own. It’s lonely sometimes. It’s scary. It’s nothing like we imagined. No wonder they call it a midlife crisis.
Yet somewhere within, we catch ourselves longing for the next part. We plan the fun. We courageously stick our necks out and take another step. We’re excited about the future. We see potential in everything we do.
We don’t have it figured out yet – and that’s okay. Because this is life, every dirty, messy, totally unbelievable part of it.
Every day I’m working on me. It’s okay to change our minds, as long as it’s our minds we’re using and working to improve. Don’t listen to “them.” They’ll never have the right advice anyway.
There is no right way to live. The only way to do it wrong is to not live at all.
It’s Time To Rewrite The Story!