Turning 50 a few years ago was something of a surprise. Like blink-you’re in 1st grade-you’re graduated-you’re married-had your first kid-had your first grandkid-blink, you’re 50. I know everyone says it, but it really did happen so quickly. When I was young and I heard the age 50, I thought, Old. That is an old person.
Now that it’s me, I don’t feel old. Some people tell me I don’t look my age, which is nice to hear but is truly neither here nor there because the fact is that I am now a few years past that old age of 50.
Gen X’ers in Midlife
My parents in middle age seemed to have it together, as if they’d been born adults and always knew what adult things they should be doing at any given time: good citizen things like cleaning out the garage on a Saturday morning, balancing the checkbook every month, vacuuming the carpet regularly, and making dinners for “shut-ins.” (Being a shut-in sounded sort of intriguing to me back then, by the way, with its unending command of the TV and meals brought to oneself, but what did I know? But I digress...)
Me in middle age is a little different. Oh, I feel like I’m a pretty responsible adult. But I also feel at times as though I’m still making this whole thing up as I go along, and never moreso than when I see all the advice geared toward the middle aged or for someone going through a midlife crisis. It’s like an illness we all need to get over. Maybe I should be more rattled about all this midlife stuff? Should I be indulging in some sort of major crisis of self-confidence and identity? Did I miss a memo??
Midlife…even the term sounds so depressing. Do a quick search on Pinterest for ‘midlife’ and here are some of the top hits:
Struggles of midlife…
Change your career at midlife…
Hmm…seems restless and discontent, as if there’s no possible way you could be happy with your blecky middle-aged self. I imagine that’s what some people are feeling, but it’s not what I’m feeling.
Ok, checking Medium, which is full of thoughtful writers. Search again: midlife.
How to tell if you’re having a midlife crisis….
Defeat midlife regret…
UGH. You get the drift.
I would like to have a different conversation about midlife.
I want to discuss all the things we’ve learned, look with excitement to what’s coming, and, maybe in a Fried Green Tomatoes “Towanda!” sort of way, talk with confidence about all the really cool and awesome things we’ve done and accomplished, and can keep doing, and keep becoming. If we have regrets, we can talk about those, too, while realizing life is too short to camp there and we have the capacity to go on and do better.
We can also discuss the hot flashes and how irritating everyone is at times (it’s their fault, not us, right?), but the conversation I really want to have is about what this new season will look like. I want to chat about ideas, and new technology, and hear about your grandkids and show you photos of mine, of course, and have real discussions about faith and hope. Personally, I’m not trying to recapture my youth or go back in time. I’ve been there-done-that-got the saggy tummy skin. I’ve raised my kids and been through all the angst and questioned my parenting and driven all the carpools…and now it’s my turn.
Because my life isn’t over because my children are grown or because jobs change, or even if I lose everything familiar like we did when we moved to Texas after my husband’s military retirement. I’m excited to see what’s unfolding because I hope I have a lot of good years ahead of me. I want to keep traveling and learn new things.
The Best Years Are Ahead, Not Behind Us
A few years ago, I did something scary for me–started running. I ended up completing a half marathon the next year. What I learned most from beginning to run wasn’t that I was a great or even skilled runner, because I am not. In fact, I am rather slow. But I discovered that I could do something new and terrifying to me, even after 45, way after my physical prime. I found myself running distances I’d never dreamed of, learned that I could stick to something physically demanding, and that I could change my body and how I feel physically. I have that power. It dawned on me: What else could I maybe do?
The next year, I published my first book with a small publishing company. I am about to complete the manuscript for my second book. I launched not one, but two podcasts. And who knows what else? Not me! It’s always a surprise. At times, I feel I’m just along for the ride.
Are you with me? Come on–we have things to do!
P.S. Just in case you’re wondering, most social scientists agree that “midlife” spans the ages of 40 to 60 or 65. If that’s where you are, I’m happy to meet you!
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