And so it is that with another blink of an eye another decade has passed. It hardly seems possible. It seems even more impossible that I am about to enter my fifth decade, though when said in those terms it doesn't seem quite as terrifying or dramatic. It's not so much about getting older and aging, but about managing my own expectations, demands and goals. It's less about fear of failure, though that does factor into it all. It is more about not seizing every opportunity that comes my way; something I have made a conscientious effort of doing throughout my 40s. I also know that my own divorce very much impacted this decade and my thoughts and fears on Fifty.
My 40s were filled with new experiences, new friends and a fair amount of travel. I fell in love. I met new people. I made new friends. I challenged myself. I persevered. I succeeded and I also failed a few times. I set new goals. I met some of those goals. The decade forced me to live outside of my comfort zone, which as a creature of habit who seeks the comfort and the familiarity of the everyday, was a huge gift.
I have learned to push myself. I have learned to not doubt myself (I'm still working on that!). I have learned that comparison is the thief of joy, that experiences are much better and more interesting than any material item. I have learned that, for the most part, it can be done and that I can do it. I have learned that the struggle and the hard work can pay off. I have learned to ask for help. I have learned to say no. I have learned to say yes. I have learned not to apologize for my thoughts, views or opinions. I have learned to compartmentalize the various aspects of my life to allow time for everything important to me. I have learned to slow down. I have learned to speed up. I have learned to be patient. (Ok, I'm still working on this one as well!) All of these are gifts, and much of this would not have happened had I not divorced and as a result I am stronger, more determined and self reliant.
My 40s were perhaps the greatest decade of personal growth - even more so than either my 20s or my 30s. I am eager, excited and scared to see what my 50s brings. I enter this decade with a new calm despite the great struggles that lie ahead. There is much I can fight for and work towards and there is so much that is out of my hands. With regards to the latter, I have learned to sit back and enjoy the ride as best as I can, for there's a lot of beauty out there that might otherwise be missed.
As I sail toward 50 I can say for certain that am up for the challenges that lie ahead. I will face them head-on. I will continue to push myself physically and mentally. But there are things I want this year - this decade. I want to travel more, see more, explore more. I want to continue to meet new people, make new friends. I will continue to fight (fiercely) for my children, and for myself. I will continue to focus on myself and growing my career. Most importantly I acknowledge the fact that I want to settle down - I want to find an inner peace - I'm working on it but I'm not there yet.
Ten years from now, when all my children will be grown and out of the house, I want to be able to say my 50s were my best decade. I'm not too sure I can say that about my 40s. There was just too much struggle and sadness, despite the positive. Perhaps I am not yet far enough removed from this decade (I am technically still in it, after all) and my views will change down the road.
Five years post divorce I am still grappling to find the answers, still struggling to make ends meet, still treading in choppy waters, still dealing with an often volatile ex-husband and still trying to set my eyes on creating a successful future. In many ways I have the same struggles as a new college graduate with the additional responsibilities of three children. I will be honest and to use a term my 18 year old daughter does, I'll say it's scarfy AF, especially when I come to the realization that I am sandwiched in between 30 and 70. I am as close to 70 as I am to 30. When I turned 30 I got married, the next year I became pregnant with my daughter. The future was sunny and bright and there was a world of possibility ahead. I admit to being a little less optimistic now. Maybe it's best? I had a tendency to be too Pollyanna-ish, and not having a realistic view of things. While I still am hopeful of a happy future I am also realistic. Incredibly so. Divorce does that.
As I reflect on the past 10 years I have come to learn that they were the most rewarding and yet the most difficult. I was 42 when I asked for a divorce and 44 when it was finalized. Those two years of separation were brutal, the freedom that ensued was intoxicatingly freeing as I had a renewed hope for the future. The responsibilities attached with being a single parent, however, often feel like trying to stay afloat with an anchor tied to your foot. My strength has been tested over and over again and each and every time I have learned that I am stronger than I thought I ever would be, capable of more than I ever thought I would be. And so, as I look back, my limits tested on an almost daily basis, I know that I can weather any storm. And I am actually grateful for the challenges that are now behind me as I ready myself for the challenges that lie ahead. I have a renewed faith in myself and a knowledge that everything really will be alright.
I've always been a bit of a late bloomer... maybe it was self doubt, maybe I needed time to assess the situation around me, maybe it was fear, but I vow, as I enter this new decade not to let anything prevent me from being the best that I can. After all, isn't 50 the new 30?
Come on Fifty, we've got this!
* This was written a few days earlier, before my Birthday which was on June 1st.