It’s a process

50LIKE MANY OF MY CLASSMATES, I turned 50 earlier this year. I watched the birthday parade on Facebook as each one reached the milestone. I know it’s just a number, but honestly, how am I 50 already?? I’m told my face looks younger, but believe me when I say that my body is starting to feel every bit of my age. The physical changes are inevitable; you're told it will happen, and you don't believe it, and then all of a sudden, you're thinking, so they were right.

It seems I’ve reached the stage where people – inexplicably – seek my advice. I readily share my wisdom, if I may call it that, because after being a Card-Carrying Grown-Up for three decades, I figure I know a thing or two. Doesn’t mean I’m always right or have all the answers – far from it – but I’ve learned some things, and I'm not afraid to share.

I see in young adults the stages I remember going through. It's a joy to see a glimpse of their future self – proof that they're going to be just fine. Other times, I think, wait 10 years and then you’ll realize that you really didn't have it all figured out. I want to give them the keys to the kingdom, but it would be criminal to rob them of the necessary experience of doing it all on their own. It’s actually important to take that job that ends up sucking (and leave it for a new one), to date, to experience a break-up, to establish a household, to manage your money, to find your own jam. These experiences shape you.

It’s like that children’s story, “Bear Hunt” – can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go around it, gotta go through it.

Twenty years ago, I was in the throes of raising a family. I defined myself largely as a mom. Now, in what seems the blink of an eye, my peers and I are sending our offspring away to college and (hopefully!) into their own adult lives. Some celebrate the empty nest, and others rue it. Behind us are the establishing-yourself-as-an-adult phase, the courtship-and-marriage phase, the house-buying phase, the childbearing phase, the minivan (or large SUV) phase. I still have a pre-teen boy at home, and two attending community college, but the days of giant plastic toys and nap schedules are far behind me (praise be to all the deities).

Those of us of a certain age are realizing it's time to reclaim, and maybe also redefine, our own identity, separate from our progeny.

It’s tempting to look back and second-guess some decisions I made, but the truth is, I wouldn’t be exactly where (or who) I am today if I hadn’t followed my own unique path. Regret is a waste of time and energy. We can’t change the past, so we must try to learn from it. Glean that nugget of wisdom from each life experience that will help you next time. Think about what your purpose is for being in this place at this moment, and about how you got here. If you can learn from your past, you have not failed.

And yes, that does sound like a commencement speech, but it turns out there's wisdom in those platitudes. (Listen to your elders, kids. They've been there.) 

There’s still so much to look forward to. I am starting to hear a small but persistent voice that whispers, you're on the back nine now, sister – there is less and less time to waste. But I’m savoring every moment. There’s also plenty I still need to figure out. But I am enjoying my journey. I’m in a good place, and I'm so excited to see what comes next.


Feeling My Age


Seeing that sentence on this screen causes me cognitive dissonance. Just how and when did this happen? I still feel, like, 28. OK, fine, 29.  People who are 50 used to seem… old. Yet time has marched steadily forward, and I have begun my 50th year and will complete it, God willing, next July.


So many candles. Image from here.

What happened to my 40s?! I remember turning 40 and feeling like, finally, I’m a Legitimate Adult. I fretted about 39 and fretted still more as 40 approached, but that milestone birthday came and went and then I continued blissfully into those mid-decade years where you can forget how old you are and have to do the math to figure it out. (Just me?) I guess I just put my head down and charged forward, responding to the demands of busy family life, and all of a sudden, I’m about to bid my 40s farewell.

Now that my oldest boys are pursuing post-secondary education and the “baby” is in middle school, it’s time to do some planning. Life has kind of been happening to me while I wasn’t paying attention, and there are many pressing grown-uppy things I need to address: Fun things, such as retirement planning (as if I’ll actually be able to “retire”), where to live, where to travel (that’s a long list)… in short, what will the second half of my life look like? It’s overwhelming to think of it all, but these items and more are on my list and I’m slowly checking off the boxes.

Aging is not all bad. People tend to take you more seriously when you reveal your are of a certain age. I have completely earned the right to say things such as:

”I’ve been a mom for 20 years, and…” (and then I think, two decades?? Wait, did my babies grow up, too?).

“When I started work, we didn’t even *have* webmail” (to the employee about to go out on maternity leave, fully expecting she’d check her email daily).

“When my kids were in daycare, they didn’t have apps to send us photos and videos during the workday” (to the mom who just returned to work after her maternity leave).

“My period is such an insult. Why must women have it until their 50s? Nobody our age is having babies!” (To any woman who will listen. And to some men, too.)

Oh, I love babies, but you could not pay me enough to be pregnant again. I’m so happy those days are behind me. I feel damn lucky to have gone 3-for-3, but so certain was I that the last one, at age 37, was going to be The Last One, that at my first prenatal visit I asked the doctor to schedule my C-section and I told him to add a tubal ligation while he was in there conducting business.

But other people’s babies? Oh, how I love tiny humans. I am going to make an excellent grandmother. Someday. Not anytime soon, I hope.  But I seem to have become that doting older woman who will grab your baby out of your hands so fast it’ll make your head spin.

Recently, I was hanging out on an apartment rooftop near the communal gas grill when a young dad approached, balancing all his cooking tools, meat, and marinade on the top of his baby’s stroller. He was trying really hard to do it all, but the baby was starting to fuss. So, I went over and was like, hey, do you need some help? Let me help you. Want me to hold your baby? He hesitated, so I said, my name is Meg, and now that we know each other PLEASE GIVE ME YOUR BABY. And he did! He finished his grilling, I got to inhale the wonderful scent of warm-baby-head, and everyone was happy.

My skin is drooping and my weight is shifting and some days I feel, well, creaky. But I appreciate the wisdom that comes with each passing year and know I’m fortunate to have my health and my sanity. I’m excited for all that life holds in store for me and am grateful for each day I’m given.