The first time I noticed someone making a big deal about turning 50 was almost 15 years ago when Oprah Winfrey did a big 5 0 show. She and her production team went all-out crazy for the TV celebrations. But it wasn’t until I started living in the UK that I noticed that people in some parts of the world consider it a huge milestone. People who don’t normally celebrate birthdays celebrate this one. Others will build up to it with a series of challenges. Yet others go on bucket-list trips (plural in some cases) to celebrate the event.
I hardly ever celebrate my birthday. My father became anti-birthday before I reached my teens. I recall having a few birthday parties when I was really young. But after that our birthday celebrations were muted. My father wanted to teach us that every day of the year was important. Every day was to be celebrated; not that he got us gifts and cake everyday, but that’s beside the point.
Because I was raised this way, my birth date sometimes passed by when I was an adult and I wouldn’t even notice. I can easily get confused about my age sometimes. Even though I’m not as anti-birthday as my father was, I didn’t want to turn my own children’s birthdays into consumer events. I didn’t like how much money was spent on birthday parties and gifts. So our family tradition became one of going out on birthdays with the immediate family to a restaurant chosen by the birthday child and to the movies.
So here I am approaching 50 this year, and because I’m living in the UK, I almost feel some pressure to do something “different” for it.
Well, it ain’t happenin’.
I have goals for this year just like I have had goals for past years. Last year was really eventful. I did an Ironman and I attempted (but failed) to climb Latin America’s highest mountain, Aconcagua. This year I promised myself a less full-on year. I wanted to get back into activities that I had put on the shelf for quite some time, like diving. I wanted to teach myself to slow down my daily routine. I wanted to learn how to focus more on my inner self while still working on my physical self but within reason. And, eventually, I want to teach myself to be more present for my family and friends.
I want to do all these things not because I’m turning 50, but because these goals are the ones I know I need to work on now in order to have a better life.
If I don’t manage to achieve my goals this year, I’ll continue to work on them next year.
My 40s have been my most exciting and fulfilling decade yet. I have had so many experiences. I have been to so many places and seen so many things. Most importantly, it is the decade in which I became most comfortable (so far) with myself. As I am getting closer to 50, I feel like I’m on the verge of losing that balance. But in my mind, that has nothing to do with a number and everything to do with the changes and challenges that life throws at me sometimes. We experience, we struggle, we learn, we grow, we mature, we become wise, and then we experience something new and often have to start all over again.
So far, this year has been good and it has also been very challenging.
I took a course in winter mountaineering that I absolutely loved. I need to be out in nature more, I have decided. I need to take my sport activities out of the racing and into the stuff that got me into sport in the first place. I want to keep fit so I can go places that require strength of mind and body to get there.
I’m just back from an amazing diving trip in the Red Sea. I saw oceanic white tip sharks for the first time! Even if I don’t get to go on another diving trip this year, I feel satisfied that I have fulfilled one of my promises to myself.
I’m also now going to a therapist to try to learn how to deal with anxiety. I can see that this is going to be a long process. But it’s been good so far and an important learning experience for me. It’s been eye-opening and I feel like I can see some of life’s experiences with a different perspective.
I have a couple of medium-sized challenges coming up later this year just to keep me going.
I’m thinking of getting into knitting as a non-sport-related activity to help reduce my daily stresses and to give me something to do that does not involve looking at a screen for hours on end. I just bought a book that I’m hoping will teach me how to knit. Wish me luck!
And IF I feel like it’s worth it, I might look for somewhere nice for me and my husband to go on my actual birthday.
This is pretty much how every single year of my life looks. Life is here to be lived always; every single day. I do not want to be the person who lives the year building up to 40 or 50 or 60 and to have boring years in between. Every year should be exciting. Every year should be made to be full of opportunities for personal growth.
Every year will have its challenges. I’m looking forward the rest of this year and to finding out what challenges and opportunities the rest of my life will bring.