One of my least favorite trends that’s gained traction in the Facebook/Selfie era is the notion of “the Birthday Week” or worse, “Birthday Month” that adults have embraced. After leaving my teens behind, or perhaps once the milestone 21st birthday was in the rear view mirror, I had no need for celebrating my birthday anymore. What am I, twelve? Why do I need to put pressure on my husband/kids/friends to find the perfect gift when I can buy what I want, when I want? That seems like setting someone else up for failure and me for disappointment. No thanks.
So why am I taking a contrarian viewpoint and writing a blog about an entire year leading up to my 50th birthday? 2017 won’t be so much about my “Birthday Year” as it will be a reflection of what middle age means to me. I turned 49 this past November, and 50 looms large for me. When I was younger, I could never imagine myself turning 40 or 50, but I’m pleasantly surprised at the contentedness I’ve felt over the last decade. Admittedly, this has a lot to do with being married to a man I adore and who returns every bit of that adoration and then some. The financial security that goes along with middle age certainly plays a part in the satisfaction with my life. Our four kids are adults; I finished the job of parenting, other than offering unsolicited advice. Frequently. While I could stand to lose some weight, I’m in excellent health and never miss my regular checkups to ensure that continues.
So many cliches are true, I no longer worry about the opinions of others. I’ve embraced the wisdom in the phrase, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” That freedom is one of the best parts of growing older. I spent much of the first 49 years of my life taking care of others. I’m not and never will be an “It’s all about me!” type of person, I’m a caretaker at heart after all. But now that I have the freedom and financial discretion to indulge in spontaneous travel, good face cream, luxurious sheets and simply, taking care of myself, I’m going to do just that.
I got a head start on this project last November when I was let go unexpectedly from a job I held for the past 12 years. While it was a shock, there was more than a small amount of relief, too. I loved my job for the first ten years, but the last two left me questioning many things about my life. Primarily, how important is money to me and how much is my integrity worth? To my surprise, I found getting fired was pretty underrated. I received hundreds of emails, text messages and phone calls from co-workers, business partners and competitors. The support and kind words sent my way buoyed me when I needed it most.
I had a vacation planned to see my sister the same week that my employer let me go. I kept my plans and traveled to my home state for the first time in five years, taking my best friend from Minnesota with me. I saw family and friends I hadn’t seen in decades. I took a group to see my favorite band in concert, and we had an absolute blast. I hugged people tighter and longer, and I stopped my annoying lifelong habit of deflecting compliments paid to me. I thanked people, and I told them how much they meant to me. I laughed a lot. When I returned home, I decided that was going to be my blueprint for the year leading up to my 50th birthday and beyond. I’m going to seek out old friends and family; I’m going to do things that scare me, I’m going to make sure that people know how much I love them and appreciate all they’ve done for me. I can continue helping people, the part of my job that I loved the best, beyond the confines of my employment.
Four months into my unemployment, I have time again to cook meals for my loved ones, to send handwritten notes to people, to read for leisure, and reclaim my voice and passion for writing, which brings us to this little blog. The purpose of my vanity project is to get me back into the habit of writing, to indulge my creative tendencies once again. If someone else is interested, so much the better. Join me; I want to hear your stories, too!