There, I said it. And yes, I’m fine. But it’s hard to hit this milestone without some deep reflection. Also, you know how I am.
I’m reflecting on my first 50 years with nostalgia, joy, gratitude, a little sadness and I admit, some regret. I’m also reflecting knowing I did my best. And that each experience has molded me into who and what I am today. I have finally grown up, as they say.
When people talk about growing up, they’re almost always referring to the physical transition from childhood to adulthood. I am in fact, an adult, but must proclaim that growing up does not end at 18. As a matter of fact, real growth happens well into adulthood.
Growth as an adult is far more transformational. It’s the growing up we do on the inside—the beautiful and challenging steps we take to overcome hardship and become better people. Oftentimes, it happens because life has kicked us in the teeth—that damned adversity has a way of lighting our spark.
The spark is always there, even when we’re baby girls—sometimes sitting idly for decades. It’s waiting, ready to light a fire when we’re ripe to embrace it. For some of us, it takes time to find our fire under the wet blanket of rule-following and people-pleasing. For others, childhood trauma lights it early, thrusting us into adulthood.
Either way, it usually happens when reality pours gasoline onto our tinderbox of complacency and manipulation. Sparking a fire that smolders into questions and desires. It starts to burn—but in a good way. The burn is a necessary progression to waking up—especially if we’ve been numbed to condescension and abuse.
People like me, who ignore the blisters for years, covering them with ointment and Band-Aids hoping they’ll go away. Inevitably, these wounds are ripped open time and time again, until we realize they’re too deep to heal. No topical medicine can make them better. We finally decide to step away from what’s burning the outside, toward what lights up the inside. This can take a long, long time. It can take decades.
There’s a certain “coming of age” which happens as a woman turns 50. It starts with a slow transformation through her 40s when she starts to question things—realizing life is both beautiful and horrifying at the same time. It starts when she begins to put it all together. Her wisdom can smolder deep in her belly until something powerful ignites into a raging windstorm of hot, forceful energy.
That’s when she starts to realize some of the important things in life: some people will never change and it’s not our responsibility to change them; we are, in fact, only responsible for our response to the madness and for our own happiness. That’s when she will finally choose herself.
Yes, these are things the experts have been saying for years, but it can take time for us optimists and pragmatists to understand the irrationality of personality disorders, unkindness, ignorance, and lack of introspection. And when we do, we are f*cking done. We’re done with unkindness. We’re done with bullsh*t judgments. We’re done with conflict-avoiding, cowardly, blaming people. We’re done with gaslighting and condescension. We’re done with indecision.
Shades of Grey
I no longer waffle about choices that could impact my status or offend someone. If it doesn’t enhance my joy, honor my integrity, and enlighten my perspective, I don’t do it. Period.
I used to operate in the grey, failing to take a stand on the important, allowing others to dictate my happiness. As I turn 50, I finally see that for me, there are no shades of grey—smoky, foggy, cloudy, or otherwise.
Yes, my hair is turning; I’ve traded my internal grey for an external one. It’s the twisted trade-off from the Universe—we evolve into beautiful, confident, emotionally-intelligent inner beings while confronted with the acceptance of our inevitable aging on the outside.
It’s then that we need to find a balance: rage against the external machine and softness toward the innermost machine. We must find comfort inside and outside our skin—spending our time becoming really f*cking awesome humans rather than worrying about what to wear or decorate. It’s then that we see through materialism—style is our energy, confidence, kindness, and humility—not the Louis Vuitton over our shoulder.
“Style is more than what you wear, it’s who you are.” ~ Tara Gaffney
The beautiful fire that is 50 is an explosive, yet peaceful surrender. It’s when she extracts herself from the petty bullsh*t and finds her voice to say “go f*ck yourself” to the haters and the gaslighters. It’s when she flips the table over, spilling the obligatory milk, which was so carefully poured into three identical cups, and watches with joy as the tuna casserole shatters on the wood floor. It’s when she says with clarity and honesty, “If I hear condescension one more time, I will pack my f*cking bags.” And she does.
She chooses peace, desire, and happiness. She chooses herself above all else.
Look, getting older isn’t easy for anyone. I’m not going to pretend that I always look in the mirror at my eye bags or crows feet and count the times I’ve smiled, or at the wrinkles on my hands and see a life well-lived. And my neck—Jesus Christ, my neck!
My outer beauty may be fading, but something far more amazing is growing inside. It’s a firestorm of joy and strength. It’s a firestorm of peace and surrender. And it’s more beautiful than ever.
It’s a fine fire, this age of 50.
“Looks like a girl but she’s a flame
So bright she can burn your eyes
Better look the other way
You can try but you’ll never forget her name
She’s on top of the world
Hottest of the hottest girls”
~ Alicia Keys