Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Reaching Fifty

Fifty years ago, man landed on the moon.
Fifty years ago, Woodstock ended.
Fifty years ago, I was born.

Something about August 21 spurs reflection in me. What have I accomplished in the year? How have I changed? I used to write it all down here on my blog--a record of my evolution. Hard years. Good years. Aging. Learning. I wrote it all.

So . . .

Who am I at fifty?
What word defines my fifth decade of life?
And where am I going?

Who am I at fifty? 
Frankly, I love fifty. There is a certain gravitas that accompanies that two-syllable word. Without further extrapolation, people respond with a little distance and detectable surprise when they hear "fifty." (Maybe it's shock and respect for their elders, but I like my interpretation better.)  Oh, you run? Still? At your age? Good for you! And I think: Does three miles of stop/start/stop fast walking count? Oh, you are getting a degree? At your age? Great job! And I think: Does learning have to stop because you reach an age threshold?

Some parts of fifty, I don't love, to be sure. The new aches that surprisingly surface overnight then never leave. The dietary supplements to lower cholesterol or boost iron. The interrupted sleep at 2 am from an old lady bladder or an old lady hot flash or an old lady inability to stay sleep. But my complaints are very few and very, very mild.

I feel like the fifty-year version of me is good--someone I respect and someone that I usually like.

What word defines my fifth decade of life? 
Quick side note: I spent 30 minutes digging through old blog posts trying to find a series I wrote linking a defining word to each decade of my life, thinking I must have written it for my birthday. I finally found it, buried late in February of 2012. Duh. Of course! February! Why didn't I remember that? (If you'd like to read those posts, here are the links: First and FastStrongMotherWisdomDecade 5.) Rereading my blog was bittersweet. I used to document my family's foibles and funnies. I used to carry my camera everywhere, snapping memories and endlessly editing in Lightroom. I used to think deeply and write pretty well. I often feel the pull back to my blog--primarily for the recorded family memories (I even missed back to school this year) but secondarily for the forever recorded parts of me.

Large and small events shaped my fifth decade. Our family increased exponentially, and after a rough entrance into the world of grandmothering, I find now that I love every moment spent with this crazy clan of mine.

I never planned to return to school, but I graduated with my first master's degree in 2015, and here I am almost finished with my second. I found joy in learning and at fifty, I understand that learning is one of my deepest passions and inherently part of what I am.

I took my dream job--and shockingly lost it two years later. I was forced to learn about hate and revenge, and that the surprising byproducts of these were forgiveness and pity. I'll never forget those lessons. But most of all, I'l never forget the students--my kids they are and my kids they will always be.

So, what word would I use to define the last ten years? Outside my family, teaching brings me greater joy and brings my inner and outer selves closer together than anything else I've ever done. Maybe a bit more distance will alter my choice, but for today, my fifth-decade word is teacher.

And I'm hoping one day in the near future to reassume that title.

Where am I going? 
Well, I am comfortable in my "self." I finally can acknowledge that I like who I am--and love her, too. But I am one who never sits still, one who never fully accepts the status quo as permanent, one who always wants to do and be something more, something better.

I don't see that part of me ever evaporating or retiring or going dormant. At fifty, I'm just ramping up to becoming the person I'm meant to be. While satisfied with who I am, I am constantly working toward improvement in most areas of my life. And while I'm not even a full day into this sixth decade (ouch sixty sounds really old, doesn't it?), I think my next word may be reaching. Ever reaching for the best parts and version of me.

Watch out, world. I'm not lying down yet.

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