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What I’ve Learned at Half a Century

In about a week, I’m going to be 50 years old. I’ve been dreading it for months. The thought of my “golden years” makes me want to run far, far away. I’ve barely settled into middle age, fighting it at every turn. Gone are the days of jean shorts, selfies and funky makeup that my daughter now tells me makes me look silly. I’m officially old, and I hate every minute.

I used to stay out all night without paying for it in the morning. I used to eat whatever I wanted without instantly seeing it on my hips the next day. The music I listen to makes my children roll their eyes, the same way I rolled my eyes at my parents’ music. I’m not cool anymore, but I haven’t yet learned how to accept that.

I’ve learned many lessons in these 50 years, sometimes in the hardest way possible. It took me years to take my own advice, but when I did I was better for it. Running wild is only acceptable for so long before people look at you as unbalanced rather than a spitfire. I’ve had to calm down… a lot! The things below helped me get there.

Kindness

Such a simple word, yet it’s the key to everything. Kindness will take you farther than you ever thought you’d go. I’ve had my entire outlook change in one day as the recipient of a random act of kindness as simple as holding a door open for me or spotting me when I didn’t have enough cash at the grocery store. Bonus: It makes you feel great when you help somebody else, too.

Changes

Everything changes no matter how you try to put on the brakes. I married my high school sweetheart just shy of my 21st birthday. We lasted 16 years, but the thought never crossed my mind of living without him. He took care of everything, including bills, cooking, taxes and car maintenance. When he left me, I realized I should have been paying attention. If I’d bothered to learn, I wouldn’t have had a panic attack when the check engine light came on in my car. I wouldn’t have had to set my tax returns out to dry from the tears that smudged the papers. Now, I prepare for the unexpected and can take care of myself.

The Small Stuff

You know the drill… don’t sweat it. I’d kill for all the time back I spent worrying about gossip, grudges and what everyone thought of me. Ask yourself, is what I’m stressing out so much about going to be important a year from now? In most cases, the answer is hell no! Time is much better spent on your health and your loved ones and the things that make you happy.

Fun

There are things I could have done during my life that I can’t do now being plagued with fibromyalgia. I could have spent more time in nature and hiked, traveled more and shared more moments with family and friends I can never get back. I could have spent more time laughing and acting goofy than worrying about what somebody would think of me. I took myself way too seriously, but my inner filter is a lot slimmer than it used to be. I’ve decided I want to be one of those feisty older ladies who says whatever pops into her head. Life’s a lot more enjoyable that way.

Being Alone

This was always a huge one for me. I spent a lot of years hating myself for my mistakes and not trusting myself to handle things on my own. I didn’t think I could function without someone else’s guidance. I believed if somebody loved me, only then was I worth something. The problem is when things change in a relationship and you no longer have that person, your self-esteem also walks out on you. You can’t put all your eggs in someone else’s basket. Only you have the power to keep them safe.

Living your Passion

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in the fourth grade, but it wasn’t until the last two years or so that I genuinely tried to do it. I’m not getting rich by any means, but every day I get to wake up and do something I love. I have plans for my future and strive to help other people with the stories I write. If I can get just one fellow sufferer out of the pit they’ve dug for themselves, I consider it a successful day. I spent a lot of time buried myself, and I owe it to others to share the paths I’ve taken to find my way out.

Acceptance

I’m still working on this one. I don’t want to be older. I want my husband to still think I’m sexy. I want to look in the mirror and not wonder what happened to the woman who used to turn heads. Still, I wouldn’t give up the experience I have now for any of it. I’m bummed I spent so many years lost and depressed and talking badly about myself. I wish I’d been better at so many things, but I did the damnedest I could with what I knew.

A wise older person once said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I guess I’m the older and wiser person now and need to embrace it instead of trying to be something I’m not. I can be cool on the inside rather than the outside. Of course, my children will still think I’m a goofball, but that’s okay with me.