I’m Almost 50. And I’m (Almost) Ready.

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Almost 50…almost.

In 2021 I turn 50. 

I still look at that number and struggle understanding how that could be my age. A couple of years ago I learned the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar was celebrating its 50th birthday and was thinking the book was published in 1950.  What a shattering moment when I realized I was celebrating a book published long ago….the same year I was born. 

Apparently I quit tracking time after 2000.

Once I wrapped my head around all the things celebrating their Golden Anniversary near my birthdate, I started thinking through how to really make my 2020 into 2021 year beautiful and empowering and inspiring. To show that women of a certain age can do it all and have it all and look and feel like a million bucks. I would have amazing abs, run another big race, go on a big adventure, and start a new hobby…..

Then 2020 happened.

It’s hard to feel any of those things when you spend tons of time away from your friends, your workouts change, your eating habits change, you miss your family, and everything is “off” and abnormal.  

With more time to reflect, I did just that. What does it even mean to have it all? To be successful? To feel empowered and ready to enter my 50s “On Fire and Fabulous!” (which, according to an article I was read, is supposed to happen)?

Abs? Huge accomplishments? Look like I’m 30? I’m not sure any of those will happen in the ensuing months (particularly that ab thing), but I do have some things in much greater quantity now than I did just a few years ago:

I’ve got a lot of grace.

I’ve made SO many mistakes.  I’ve failed as a mother, a wife, a friend, a colleague, a daughter…but I didn’t want to or mean to. I’m still trying. I’ve learned. And I assume most others are doing the same thing. I always attempt to make the story I tell myself about a situation one where we’re all doing the best we can. I get burned with this mindset occasionally, but not often. I give myself grace and others even more and trust we’ll all end up better for it. I started to believe it in my 30s, tried to live it in my 40s, and embrace it as a motto as I enter my 50s.

I’ve got a lot of grit.

I’ve done the sleepless newborn nights five times. I’ve had three teen drivers and am working on two more. I’ve watched my own dreams fall to the ground as I nurtured little people, and scooped them back up when I could see my time coming. I’ve received the worst of phone calls, walked inconsolable boys to the car after losses, held the hand of my husband through the toughest of conversations, run marathons, and bit my tongue to keep from saying snarky things when I felt insulted or disrespected. I can do hard things. And as I eyeball 50 I’m more aware than ever that with the right people and mindset – and my faith – I can handle anything.  

I’ve got a lot of gumption.

I’m pretty OK with who I am now. I’m comfortable with my strengths and can readily tell you about them.  I’m equally comfortable with my weaknesses. And while I might apologize for not being able to help you solicit funds or free things for your fundraiser (I detest asking for things), I can greet that donor when they show up and talk to them even if they only say four words the entire time.  I cry a lot for all kinds of reasons and hate to cook, and oh well. I’m never going to like watermelon and never giving up Diet Dr. Pepper, and I’m good with that. I know what works for me (skinny jeans and cardigans and fun tees) and what doesn’t (boot cut jeans, dangly earrings, and anything with ruffles) and feel no need to change.  I trust my ideas and my friends and give less space to the things that no longer feed my soul or make me smile.  My people-pleaser self died a bit in my 40’s, and that’s not a bad thing.

I have loads of gratitude.

I’ve had my share of heartbreak. I’ve had seasons of endless tears and sleepless nights. But I also can look back on those times and see how necessary they were to get where I am now. Where my family is now. Life is a string of stepping stones and you really can’t leapfrog many before your whole journey changes. So I start my day with gratitude, end it with gratitude, and attempt to be thankful and pause for those moments throughout the day. My big feelings that can quickly overwhelm me are also good reminders of all the amazingness that’s out there, and I get to feel it and live it deeply. That’s a good thing, and so something that used to cause me embarrassment is now on my gratitude list – a new development in my late 40s.  

I couldn’t have written all this at 39. I had a different career path, lived a different life, my kids were so young, and the hardest seasons of life hadn’t even made a shadow yet. But now I know. My 50s will likely bring as many changes as this decade, but I can only smile because while I know some moments will rip at my heart, some will bring a happiness I can’t even imagine. It just might take a while.

Maybe by 50 I’ll have abs, or run another marathon, or take a big trip with my husband to celebrate, or have a big party with my friends. Or maybe I’ll just put on my skinny jeans and cardigan, enjoy a good dinner with my family, and a glass of wine with my friends. Whichever route I go, there will a toast to my 40’s: a decade that changed me in hard but necessary ways.

Because I’m almost 50. And I’m (almost) ready.

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Michelle Adler
Michelle is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at WSU and loves spending time with students, teachers, books, and little people. Married to Marcus for 25 years, they have five sons ranging in age from 13-23 and look forward to welcoming a girl into the family in June – when her oldest son gets married. Endless practices and games fill her weekends; her boys plays sports at various levels both locally and in college. Running gets her out of bed in the morning, reading helps her fall into it at night, and QT drinks help close the gap!

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