I’ve never been very hung up on age, at least consciously.
But turning 50 last month brought a new awareness, a pause, and then a blessed freedom. In between was the realization that conscious or not, advancing age plays games with us.
I know that so much of this is the message we get from society, that youth and physical beauty are of the ultimate value. I’m smart, and I like to think I have never bought into that. I have always believed that beauty comes from within, and that the most beautiful women are happy, fulfilled women. I was never good at female beauty stuff, and secretly proud of that. So I assumed I would segue into middle age without really noticing.
And yet, I fretted horribly about the new ten pounds I can’t seem to shake. Became attentive to my hair for the first time in my life, because hair is something we can control. Bought special creams for my eyes and neck, instead of the usual all purpose concoction I’ve been using everywhere, forever.
There is a phrase my adult kids use for that moment when you know you’ve had too much to drink, but you keep at it, trying to regain that initial thrill. Chasing the Dragon. And me, I was in big denial, but I was chasing the dragon.
Shame on me. For starters, anyone who has ever seen my 73 year old Mom, or my 51 year old cousin, knows that I come from really good aging genes. My gem of a husband prefers me sans makeup, in dirty jeans and a flannel shirt—no issues there. My career is spent teaching young people that self-esteem comes from within. Why was getting older even an issue for me?
Shameful. But real.
Then I turned 50. I actually crossed that numerical bridge, where nobody can pretend that middle age is still on the other side and I found a new, unexpected and lovely sense of peace with it. It started with the selfie my old friend posted on her 50th, a month before mine.
Once gorgeous and youthful—she was now smart, savvy, and incredibly interesting. A whole new kind of attractive. I turned the lens on myself as the big day arrived. I was surrounded by fabulous, funny people, three of whom I birthed. My marriage was rock solid and still full of fun and adventure. I had a new career I was passionate about, that came from following a dream in my forties. My body was strong, healthy and capable of everything I asked of it.
Suddenly, the extra pounds seemed irrelevant. My wrinkles: individual badges of honor marking the milestones and tests of my life. They don’t matter. What does matter is the smile on my face, because my life is full of joy. The interests I want to pursue, and the sound mind to do so. The adventures ahead, and the health I am so fortunate to have that will let me chase them.
I am 50. I will look at what I have, not what I’ve lost. This is a good place to be.
Author: Jen French
Editor: Renee Jahnke
Image: Beth Punches-Flickr