50 is just a number

Fifty.

50.

I am 50.

Last week I turned fifty.

I actually celebrated my 50th birthday (three times in fact!), although I did not plan to. But when the people you love, the people who love you, choose to celebrate you…well….there is no other choice.

For the past several months I’d been fretting over this impending milestone. I was struggling with the number and its relation to me. And now that I’ve achieved it, I still look at the number with disbelief. That number is completely incongruous with who I am. In fact, it embarrasses me.

Over the past few years several of my friends turned 50, celebrating with parties where they spoke of their acceptance of this new decade and their love of family and friends who had been through good times and bad with them. I should have found this encouraging, and yet as my birthday approached I found myself feeling angry. Angry that a number was going to betray me.

Why have I been struggling so with this milestone event?

It could be because I am the mother of young children – my two youngest daughters only just finished 1st grade. Most of their classmates’ mothers are in their 30s.  Not only do these mothers have so much more than I had in my 30s (more, even, than I have now at 50) but they look better. The thirty something mothers don’t schedule a year’s worth of appointments at six week intervals with their hair colorist…and then use Root Rescue in between to cover the gray. Those mothers don’t have a soft chin and skin that is darkened from 50 years of sun exposure – their faces are taut and smooth and seemingly flawless.  Those mothers aren’t wearing progressive lenses and drawing on their eyebrows. I have two 7 year olds – I feel like I should be 35, why don’t I look like I’m 35, dammit!

It could be because I’m not where I’d like to be – where I think I should be – in my career.  Although I set out from business school full of ambition and drive, in the last decade various life choices resulted in career stagnation and even some backward steps. Now I find myself, in an industry where age discrimination is rampant, an older employee, more often than not reporting to managers with far less experience than I have. I yearn for a leadership position, an opportunity to help a team of eager new marketers learn from my experience, and, let’s face it, the cachet of a more impressive title.

Or it could be because as a young woman the future meant my 30s and my 40s, but never beyond that. My parents, the generation ahead of me, was in their 50s. It was beyond my imagination…and yet suddenly I am here.

I am here.

Already I have lost too many friends along the way.  Friends who never had a chance to complain about the gray roots and hot flashes. Friends who didn’t get to experience helping their teenager prepare for college.

It will take me awhile to get comfortable with this new number. But I am appreciative.  Appreciative that I get to celebrate my 50th birthday. Appreciative that my RealAge is 48.2 (and getting lower)! Appreciative for the dear friends who go out of their way to help me celebrate while understanding that I’m annoyed by the number and who attempt to console me by assuring me that I look “much younger!”

And by the way, I’m in such good company – Barack Obama, George Clooney, Julia Louis Dreyfus, Heather Locklear, Michael J. Fox – just some of the vibrant celebrities sharing this milestone year with me!

After all, as my dad always told me, “age is just a number.” Watch me as I age gracefully!

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4 Responses to 50 is just a number

  1. Cindy says:

    This is a great post. Not only because you put your thoughts out there but because you understand now that it is really just a number you are toying with. Your real age is far younger than 48 and goodness knows you look younger than that.

    More importantly is your awareness, beauty and point of view gathered over the 50 years…these are things to be proud of and celebrate. These are milestones that only come with time and experience. I have a black and white picture of me at 30 something taken by one of my dearest friends that I cherrish now. At the time, I wasn’t so appreciative given I am not photogenic. But what I see now is the smile of a 30 something and I am proud that the almost 50 year old in me knows I have gained so much in those 20 extra years that are not reflected in wrinkles or grey hair (I do dye it!) that a black and white photo might show today. An women of progression is a thing of beauty. Rock on beautiful friend!!!!!

  2. Happy Birthday. The only thing that matters is that your RealAge is getting lower. :-) I turned 46 a few weeks ago and ran 5K for the first time. I have to say that age has never registered with me. Sometimes I forget I’m not 22. But when I remember, I thank God I’m not. Who the heck wants to return to those days? Not me. I like the wisdom I’ve acquired and if that means I have to take a few wrinkles with it, so be it. Do something really special and mean ingful for yourself to celebrate this milestone. If you decide you need a change, reinvent yourself for Life Part 2. The possibilities are endless. Isn’t that a fun thought? :-)

  3. kimtb says:

    Happy Birthday. I took a year to celebrate my 50th, because it took me so long to grow into it. I am almost 54 and still working on it. (And BTW, my 17-year old does remind me that we are the oldest parents of all her friends). I think a small amount of immaturity is a good thing (at least that’s what I tell myself).

  4. I had my last child at 43, so like you, I am the mom who is older in a sea of younger, more regenerativlily blessed mothers. They may have youth, but I know I offer my kids wisdom that comes with mothering at my age. or at least that is what i tell myself.

    Happy Birthday – age really is just a number, and consider the alternative!

    Cheers to you and your awesome blog!!

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