“I often wonder how to even define being 50ish- when I still very much feel 25 (until I talk to a 25-year-old…)” The words came from a new reader, newly introduced to Campari and Sofa. And I can relate. During the sunset of my 40’s, I was having a real hard time wrapping my head around how the next decade would be like, which is part of the reason sofagirl and I set out to redefine what 50 means for us, and for all those women who are finding themselves caught between the surprise of having gotten here (rather fast, may add) but still feel 25 and have no role models to take cues from.
I don’t actually feel 25, although I probably have more in common with a 25-year-old than my mother did when I was 25, but I certainly don’t feel done or set in the ways that will carry me through my golden years. Some of the pages in my personal book of life have been closed, never to be re-opened, but there is still so much need to keep on writing. And that has taken me by surprise. I suppose at 25, at the dawn of my career, I didn’t much pause to think whether I would persevere in the same line of work until middle age, or what my plan was. Later on, in my early 40’s, I still had expectations and dreams I set out to fulfill. I still do. And that is what I think divides us most from the women of my mother’s generation, whose course was mapped, barring any unforeseen – and mostly unpleasant – events.
Whether it’s trying to find love again, or a better job or a new meaning after the children have moved out, what we all tend to have in common is to ensure our life has purpose. How we get there is probably different for each and every one of us. sofagirl and I are maybe slightly atypical in the sense that neither of us ended up with a conventional family life: she is happily single and I married late and raised children, but not my own. Both of us walked away from fulfilling careers for different reasons but, mostly, because we were done and embraced the task of starting over. Even if we are not suffering from the empty nest syndrome, we were nonetheless called to redefine who we are.
So, what is really like to be 50ish in 2013?
If at 25 we couldn’t foresee learning to rely on technology as much as we do, neither did we expect the debate on “whether women can have it all” to carry on this long. Can we move on now? Having established our participation in the world at large, beyond child-rearing, is valued and valuable, the truth is we all do the best we can under the circumstances we find ourselves in. The same way nobody is perfect so no woman will ever be the perfect mother, wife, lover, CEO, cook all rolled into one. Every day is a give and take. There are many battles still to be fought but trying to have it all I don’t think is one of them.
Plastic surgery is helping us to look more youthful (if we so choose) but none of us are lighting up a room with our looks anymore, not even if we still fit into jeans from 20 years ago. And you know what? It’s not so bad – we have traded flawless skin and perkiness for charm and experience. Now if someone finds me interesting, it’s usually not because of my ass. Makes for more enduring relationships.
I work out, hike with the dogs, do yoga and I have learnt the benefits of a more balanced nutrition – if I had to live on bread, cheese, tomatoes and coffee as I did at 25 I wouldn’t have the energy to do much. But, despite the still vibrant energy, I feel like I am getting more and more acquainted with my doctors. And I don’t even suffer from anything major. Between 20 and 45 I had my blood checked maybe three times; now it’s all a flurry of exams ranging from the humiliating colonoscopy to checking for osteoporosis. My advice, shack up with a doctor if you still can – saves time and money.
Even my opinionated self has learnt not to judge. Most of the time. And this has made for a kinder and more open life. That part, I enjoy very much. Love is our best asset and being right at all costs is overrated.
Having to think about my mortality – that, I am still dealing with. It felt mighty good when we thought we would be carrying on forever.
My world has gotten bigger. I might not be globe-trotting any more or with the same conviction, forcing new experiences on myself, but the way I think about my days is less narrow, less self-centered. That’s good and bad – sometimes if feels like I am wasting energy in too many directions while before it was just wasted on me.
I worry about money in a way I never did before, with a slight obsession, in the expectation of living longer than previous generations. If I get run over by a bus tomorrow, I will be furious, for all the time I spent mapping my future needs.
In short, at 51, I still look at the future with hope and wonder, the same way I did at 25, just with a few (wait, a lot more) wrinkles and a touch a foolishness my welcome wisdom has not completely erased.