The real journey begins past midlife; 5 tips to keep the fun going

Why worry hitting the 50s when you can be happy?

It is the golden year and if we know how to handle it well, it will live up to its appraising value. I count my blessings each day because I am certain I hardly deserve them but they were given to me. I never stop being grateful. Even past my 50s.

Midlife is a celebration, like a party rocking and rolling to its main event.

Tip #1: “Do it badly; do it slowly; do it fearfully; do it any way you have to, but do it.” — Steve Chandler, Reinventing Yourself: How to Become the Person You’ve Always Wanted to Be

The past three years have been a blur of exciting career opportunities for me. At 51, I managed a 10-member communications team deployed on the world’s strongest typhoon in the Philippines. At 52, closing my ears to my family’s protests, I packed my bags to work for the humanitarian crisis in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

I never wanted regrets. If I can do them now, I just go do it. I don’t want to wait for tomorrow that has different opportunities of its own than today.

Tip #2: “The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.” — JFK

The displacement crisis in Iraq, which had since then became even more complex, was my most emotional one-year assignment so far. I am still haunted by the hundreds of thousands of tents occupied by over a million internally-displaced people from northern Iraq.

It breaks my heart to countless pieces even long before I left. At 53, I went back to Africa for the El Nino crisis, the long dry spell in Southern Africa affecting an estimated 60 million people across nine countries.

From typhoons to conflict to drought and famine, my life has now been defined with the privilege to be at the frontline of the world’s most challenging emergencies. Who said all these cannot be done by a fifty-something?

Tip # 3: “Making your mark in the world is hard. If it was easy, everybody will do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It is whether you let it harden and shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere …” — President Barack Obama

Humanitarian work is a privilege because I am able to contribute to saving lives and give voice to the marginalised and the suffering. There were many times when I wanted to sit-down at a porch with a view of the sea and enjoy my latte watching the sunlight.

But it won’t take two seconds before I chide myself. It’s not so me to blow the torch off and put it in the holder. I removed retirement from my plan. You do a shift but you do not stop being productive. There is always a good reason to roll your sleeves up and get your hands busy.

Tip #4: “It is not wanting to win that makes you a winner; it is refusing to fail.” — Unknown

Past my colourful midlife, I was fortunate to be based in Swaziland for a year, a small-landlocked country in Southern Africa with 1.3 million population. Work becomes a blessing if you keep sharing and working hard. There are no free lunches.

Tip #5: “Age appears to be best in four things: old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read.” — Francis Bacon

I should add, … wise words to share.

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