Get a tattoo? Take a secret lover? Trade in my SUV for a zippy convertible? What would I do as that dreaded time neared … turning 50? This question weighed heavily on me and the go-to options seemed riddled with flaws.
First, I don’t like anything enough to have inked on me forever. Butterflies aren’t my thing and bearing 3 children already left plenty of marks! Having an affair was off the table, chiefly because I love my husband, but also because I overwhelm far too easily to carry off a double life. Even the simplest rebellion posed a problem: How would I ever get home from Costco in a tiny convertible?
So, how would I shake things up and move passed this mid-life crossroads without having to drive off into the sunset with a stranger and a butterfly on my back?
What needed shaking up anyway? I had a good life, a great one in fact, and yet I yearned for more. I felt stuck in old roles, expectations, and routines and sidelined as I watched the dust thicken on my degrees and my kids get older. I no longer saw MY path or purpose and needed a good shove.
Then, like magic, it came to me … Community Service!
Far less racy than a tattoo or sports car, MY bridge from funk to unfettered joy came from 50 new adventures and a pair of walking shoes! This bridge, my journey that I call Follow Me To 50, transformed my life and forever changed who I am, what I do, and how I interact with the world.
For an entire year, I said “yes” to new opportunities and pushed beyond my comfort zone. And guess what? With each new experience, a robust sense of passion and joy began to percolate inside. I felt it right from the start … This was MY perfect shake up!
I left the convenience of my zip code and discovered distant places that put my car’s navigation to the test. I wrote a novice service blog and finally surfaced on social media! My tight circle of friends expanded into an army of diverse people who, once strangers, became treasured friends and sources of MY inspiration.
Old skills were put to new uses: My domestic talents allowed me to create welcoming homes for new refugee families and arrange meals for more than 1,300 hungry people. My legal background and mother-bear tendencies were put to use protesting at the White House, lobbying in legislative halls, and participating in our great democracy. I even used my love for walking to shine a light on several of my favorite charities.
New skills were acquired too: I learned how to perform a stream study and to operate power tools. I paddled a kayak to collect trash and joined a variety of new groups. I changed the way I managed my time and how I spent my days.
Perhaps more than what I did, it was who I did it with that was the true gift. Though I worked with incredible visionaries and teachers, I learned the most from the extraordinary people I worked alongside and served. Humble strangers faced with great adversity, reminded me that, despite our diversity, we are far more alike than different:
- WE ALL want to be loved and to be treated with dignity;
- WE ALL pray for our families will be healthy and safe;
- ALL OF OUR children need stability, quality education, and opportunity;
- WE ALL can find blessings in the ordinary, be more generous, and positive — even in times of great despair; and
- WE ALL could strive to be more resilient, helpful, and hopeful.
You see, I served 50 organizations and thousands of people but my service served me far more!
Only at the end of this glorious year, when my walking shoes finally left the neighborhood and carried me 50 miles in California, was I able to recognize the enormity of Follow Me To 50 and feel my transformation. This journey revived my spirit and awakened my senses:
I smell the rich spices of my diverse community and the strong scents of nature enticing me to continue exploring and interacting in new settings;
I hear the calls to action and cries for help that I must heed;
I see the heartbreaking struggle for dignity and basic needs and recognize that I too am responsible for seeking solutions;
I feed on the sweet taste of adventure and free will and resolve, for my own selfish joy, to live more purposefully in everyday life; and
I feel giddy, alive, impassioned, and AWAKE — I have found MY passion, MY purpose, and MY bridge to unfettered joy.
Now, maybe I have an idea for a tattoo!
Are you looking for new passion or purpose? What will serve as your bridge to unfettered joy in a time of need or transition? Sometimes it isn’t revealed until you shake things up!
Keep Following ….
Amy Yontef-McGrath is the founder of Follow Me To 50, a platform that celebrates community, service, and self-discovery. A former public-interest attorney, Amy is a wife and mother to three amazing kids and is a lifelong community activist and volunteer. She inspires others to interact with their community and to shake up routines to reveal new passion and purpose. Find her at www.followmetofifty.com and on Facebook where she’d be thrilled to Follow YOU.