I don’t think you can cross into the 50-year-old zone without having a very messy life.

You know what I’m talking about. The things we all struggle with every day. Like:

  • Finances
  • Relationships
  • Kids
  • Aging parents
  • Retirement
  • Menopause
  • Career
  • Friendships
  • Burnout

Oh, and then let’s add in things entirely out of our control. Like:

  • Wildfires
  • Hurricanes
  • Tornados

Yeah, you get the picture.

Messes aren’t just a one-time thing

Years ago, I let myself get busy. VERY busy. The kind of busy that allowed me to sleep only four hours a night.

I’d rise before everyone to get an hour or two of work out the door. I’d shove as much as I could into every minute of the day. Picking up my daughter from school could look like a three-ringed circus.

Leave-early-to-swing-by-the-gas-station-while-talking-to-a-client-then-picking-up-groceries-for-dinner-before-dropping-off-the-dry-cleaning-and-then-pick-up-my-daughter-and-drop-her-off-at-soccer-practice-which-gave-me-enough-time-to …

Ever had one of those days? That was my life.

I finally figured out I couldn’t survive that way forever when my body started changing. I noticed I gained a few pounds. I didn’t feel right. I’d fall asleep if I sat down.

So I did what any overachiever would do, and promptly signed up for a triathlon.

Do you see a pattern here?

It took me forever to see that pattern. Some would even say I still haven’t figured it out.

But when I compare my life back then to where I am today, I know I’m finally in a place of contentment, a place where I can comfortably be myself.

Years ago, I started looking at what adulthood really means. Maybe it was because I was approaching 50, nowhere near ready to settle down.

And yet society has us believing 50 equals retirement. When you hit fifty, you’ve done the best things in life.

Give it a rest, society will tell you. You’re fifty. It’s time to settle down.

So, of course, I had to pedal faster.

Your Messes change over time

Have you stopped to think about adulthood?

For me, I consider adulthood to start around 22. I think that’s changing now for our kids. But for me, 22 is when I graduated college, got married, and created a life of my own.

Given the average age people die is around 82, that gives us 60 years of adult living. Sixty years to make our mark on the world.

Looking at that, I reasoned that at 52, I reached my midway point. That meant as much life behind me, I still had in front of me.

And because I’m an overachiever, I set my sights on a new goal. Eighty-two just wouldn’t do. One hundred is possible today; it’s being done all the time. And if that’s the case, I won’t even reach the halfway point until 61.

Fifties are not time to quit, or even slow down. With over half my life in front of me, that means I have a lot of living left to do. Start businesses, live in many different areas, start all kinds of relationships – all of that is still possible because I’m only just starting this thing called midlife.

In my twenties, I got a degree, worked corporate, finished my masters, got married, and bought a townhouse.

In my thirties, we had a child, started our first business, traded in the townhouse for a home. Started up another business, and another one. Made a whole bunch of mistakes, and picked ourselves up to do it all again.

In my forties, I questioned everything. I started paying attention to my health. We made the decision to move away from our “forever” home, to an area I’d never been to before my forty-eighth birthday.

Now in my fifties, I’m right in the middle of a lifestyle I intentionally designed. Is it perfect? Definitely not. But I’m working on it. I’m conscious of everything I do. I say no a whole lot more than I ever have before.

I also know that what I’m doing today won’t hold my attention in my sixties, seventies, or eighties. The best I can do today is give myself the skills I need to perfect certain parts of me.

I do that by reading. And writing. The two things that have always held constant in my life for the vast majority of the years.

Because I know no matter what, it’s going to continue to be a very messy middle. I’ll continue to:

  • Start and stop relationships
  • Visit and move to new locations
  • Create and sell different businesses
  • Have different passions and different hobbies

If that’s the case, it’s time to stop wondering what to do with the rest of my life, and focus instead on what I should do right now.

Messes make you reach for new and different things

What’s next? I’ve asked it so much, I use it as a tagline on my blog.

But I think many women who ask that same question have reached a point where they focus on the wrong outcome.

When you look at a pivot point as an end-all, you spend more time thinking about the rewards.

But when you pivot for the moment, it puts less weight on the outcome.

There’s very little you do that you can’t recover from. We’ve proven that this year.

Yet we get stuck thinking that every decision, every plan, has to be a monumental course of action. When in reality, it should be nothing more than a pivot to make today’s version of you a better person.

Sometimes pivots take weeks – months – to put into action.

Sometimes they can be as simple as saying two little words: I quit.

But honesty is the best action – being honest with yourself.

I want this. I don’t want that. I like this. I’m indifferent about that.

Just a few years ago, my “what’s next” question led me to sell my forever home, and make the decision to slow travel the rest of my life. We knew we wanted to visit many different cities worldwide, and find places where we’d like to spend more time.

This year stopped us from continuing with that journey for a little while. It also made us look at the “what’s next” question through a different set of eyes.

I believe that’s what life is all about.

If you don’t ask the questions, you can’t better your world.

If you don’t think about progress, for you and all those around you, you’ll never build it into your lifestyle.

What does today look like?

What do I choose to make tomorrow look like?

The messy things in the middle are my path to a better me.