Last week I had a much needed break from everyday life. We spent three rejuvenating nights camping in Shenandoah National Park, where my cell phone got only spotty service, and the questions of the day included where to hike and where to go for dinner (we didn’t completely “rough it”). We hiked a bit each day, but there was plenty of time to relax and ponder. Though I did spend some time thinking about and taking notes for an upcoming project, I had time to contemplate life in general and came to some conclusions about an upcoming birthday.
I knew from an early age that I wanted to have a family young and especially now am happy with this choice. While I was too busy with life to even consider the relevance of previous milestone birthdays, I am looking at 50 with anticipation. Yes, it is a big number, but I look around and see how much opportunity still exists, as long as I slow down and pay attention. This camping trip reminded me how important it is and will be to regularly unplug and just be. While doing just this, I realized that this birthday really is different.
For my entire adult life, I have been a mom. I have looked at things through a mom’s eyes. Everything I did had a potential impact on my children. Now, my actions cause barely a ripple in their lives. I am confident that they don’t need me, at least not in the way they once did. Now my role is more to observe and advise them and to discover what else the world has to offer. Spending a few unscheduled days gave me the opportunity to think about life and to gain a new perspective.
I noticed more bounce in my step last week, a newfound sense of freedom. While one might expect me to be more cautious than when I was young, instead I feel more adventurous. I gleefully climbed among boulders on cliff sides, seeking the best view on each hike we took (and making my husband nervous in the process). Each step made me want to take another, to see and experience more. This is not a crisis; there is no rashness to my actions. I am well aware of my physical limitation. In fact this encourages me to get in better shape so that next time I can go further and do more.
Along with this sense of adventure comes a refusal to listen to those who say I can’t. I’m not going to listen to those who may tell me to act my age, to buy into the “shoulds.” I am going to live my life even if it goes against the norm. Up until this point, I have followed the rules, now it is time for me to make them for myself. I skipped over the party years; I was mommying in my twenties, not out at bars, staying until “last call” and dancing on tables. I’m not saying I will do that now (though I’ll leave the option open, if I find the moment is appropriate), but I don’t really care what people would say if I did. Again, this is not a crisis – I have no desire to go back in time. I am quite content here at (almost) 50. I have the wisdom and the confidence to know that age is just a number, that it does not limit what one can do. And I am finding that there is quite a lot that I want to do.
Another side effect of my half-century status: I now have zero tolerance for bullshit. Though I believe I still have many years ahead of me, I acknowledge that there is an end. At this point in life, I don’t want to waste time on things that don’t matter. I don’t want to spend time on petty issues that divide people. I don’t have time for hidden agendas or playing games with emotions. I will always strive to be kind, but there is no need to read between the lines with me. If you want to know what I think, ask me; don’t try to divine my thoughts based on my actions (or lack thereof). If I have offended you, tell me. Since there is much I want to do, I can get hyper-focused and be rather direct in my dealings with people. Sometimes people make things much more complicated than they are. I don’t want to waste time with misunderstandings.
As the generations below me are adding members, I am also thinking of the strong women who came before me, those who showed me that a woman can do and be anything she wants. I am thinking of the example I want to be to my children and hopefully to their children. Though I know there are still must-dos in my future, I am looking ahead to a great many more opportunities to do what I want to do. I am looking at 50 as a new beginning, a time to discover new dreams and work to meet new goals. I am looking forward to seeing how much I can do.