This year I turned 50 years old. The Big 5-0 – Fifty.
I remember, rather vividly, being nine and hearing that a teacher at my school just turned 50. I couldn’t help but feel that that was so old. It sounded old. It looked old, and it seemed a lifetime away.
And now here I am. I stare at myself in the mirror most days and wonder how fast will I become “old” and, if I’m being brutally honest, worry that the next 50 years will go by even faster. That I won’t have enough time to see all the incredible places I want to visit or meet the people I want to meet or take the classes that I’ve always dreamed of taking … in short, time to live.
Our days are filled with obligations, commitments, schedules and the habit of being busy. The society we live in frowns upon taking days off, being quiet, sitting still, becoming bored; and yet many European countries think we North Americans are out of our minds with the pace that we rush through our lives without actually living them. Not the way they do: taking entire months off from work to travel the globe, see the world and live the adventures they always dreamed of living – not just dreaming about living them. They’ve got it down.
I am beginning to realize that I don’t. You see, the last few years of being in my 40s, I wasn’t bothered by the reality that I was turning 50 soon. I was actually excited. In many ways I couldn’t wait to be 50. There was a part of me that hoped that turning that magical mature-but-not-old age would somehow quiet the girlish insecurities that had plagued me my entire life, that I would feel like a grown-up once and for all. I was ready to turn 50.
Until I did.
Actually, crossing the 50 milestone was a lot different than just talking about it or thinking about it. It was harder than I expected. And I must confess that I’m not settling into it quite as nicely as I thought I would.
So now what? The reality of it is aging is a blessing. Not everybody gets to do it. And even though I know this in my spirit, my heart and my mind, I can’t seem to shake the dread of crossing over into an age bracket that I don’t feel like I belong in yet. I still feel like I’m 25 – well, not my left knee or my lower back, and sometimes my feet really give me trouble – but other than those few little hiccups, I still feel like that young woman who thinks 50 is for old people.
I didn’t cross over as gracefully as I thought I would. I was headed into it so solid, strong and ready to go to the other side, and now that I’m here, I can’t stop, sort of obsessing about the crepey skin on my hands, how my knees and elbows are not as taut as they once were, wondering if Sharon Stone was right when she cut alcohol out of her life entirely when she turned 50 because she noticed that her skin became too dehydrated and didn’t bounce back after an evening of wine like it had done even in her 40s.
Or like Catherine Deneuve famously said, “It’s your ass or your face. You can’t keep them both.” So do I stop caring about if my waist stays in the high 20s or is it more important for the skin on my face to be filled out a little bit more by carrying a little more weight on my frame? But if I do that, how do I still wear a bikini?
All these things are now thoughts in my head that didn’t used to be there. It’s an adjustment. It’s one that while I was on the other side of 50 hadn’t even crossed my mind as future life concerns. Oh, and don’t even get me started on vaginal matters. That, my friends, is for another day, another article and probably an entire bottle of wine. But wait – what about what Sharon said about dehydrated skin? Oy vey.
Aging ain’t for sissies, my darlings.