(This column originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Refreshed Magazine.)
By the time you read this column, I’ll have reached one of life’s many milestones: the 20th anniversary of my 30th birthday.
Or, to be more specific, I turn 350 in dog years.
I’d love to share some words of wisdom about turning 49+1, but publishing deadlines being what they are, as I sit down to write this column I’m still a few weeks shy of the actual Big Day. All I have as a prediction of the coming decade is my past experience. My 40s were significantly better than my 30s, which were much better than my 20s. Each decade has brought with it increasing wisdom and maturity, allowing me to both apologize to and forgive myself for the previous decade.
If that trend continues, I’ll be eligible for membership in Mensa. Or sainthood.
Since I have nothing to offer yet on what it means to join the Over The Hill Gang, I turned to my friend Lynda for some thoughts on what to expect. Her birthday was just a few days ago, so the big event is still fresh in her mind. She had a weekend-long celebration that included a night out with the girls, dinner with family, and a lot of pictures on Facebook showing that she’s barely aged since high school.
When I asked her how it felt to turn 10×5, she mused about a little arthritis in her knees, along with the requisite hot flashes and slightly higher blood pressure. You know, the things people tell me that “women your age” deal with, along with resistant gray hair, memory loss, and those few extra pounds that won’t go away no matter how much you diet or exercise.
Fair warning. The next person who says “women your age” to me will find out that women my age can still give you black eye.
But back to Lynda. She isn’t letting a milestone birthday get her down. She has a lot to celebrate this year. She and her husband will be married for 25 years. Their daughter turns 21 and their son starts high school. “I have a job I love, which I work part time, so low stress,” she told me by email. “Two great kids, an awesome husband, a lovable dog, a roof over our heads, living in San Diego, and just came back from the beach, where my son’s swim team was taking their team photos.”
With characteristic optimism, she added, “We survived the millennium, so it’s all bonus years from here on out!”
Maybe she’s so upbeat because the birthday cake sugar hasn’t cleared her system yet, or she’s high on all of that California sun and surf so absent here in Western New York, where I live and write (and shovel snow in May). I needed feedback from someone in my own climate.
My friend Lisa celebrated The Big One last December, during a blizzard. There was a surprise party, although she didn’t feel much like celebrating. And it wasn’t just the weather. “I’m not where I thought I’d be at this point in my life,” she admitted over lunch recently. I understand what she means. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, while people I went to high school with are retiring from jobs they’ve held for 25 or 30 years.
Mickey has a few years on me and Lisa, and she added this perspective: “When I do realize how old I’ll be it amazes me. I’m not where I thought I’d be but it’s been a pretty good trip to where I am.”
That explains Yvonne’s thoughts. She said that as they years have passed, “I gained confidence. I gained experience. I gained knowledge. I gained self-esteem.” This birthday is when she bloomed. “I moved forward and I’ve never looked back.”
Sounds like the key to aging is to enjoy the journey and not focus on the destination. Good. That means I can throw away all of those mailers from the cemetery offering to help me preplan my funeral.
Today turns into tomorrow, this year turns into the next, and life keeps happening, regardless of how many candles are on your birthday cake. While I haven’t made a big deal about my impending leap into old age, it would be nice if everyone else stopped counting. Yesterday the mailman delivered my membership application for AARP.
That led to maybe the best feedback I’ve gotten so far about turning … gulp … 50: “Enjoy it,” said my Aunt Mary Ellen. “You’ll never be any younger.”