Turning fifty is a big deal, a milestone, halftime in the game of life. I turned fifty on June third this year. I was excited about the upcoming birthday but I was also filled with some sadness as my forties were coming to an end. For some reason, I experienced eager anticipation as well as nervous dread simultaneously. It was a bittersweet feeling.
Victor Hugo has rightly said, “Forty is the old age of youth and fifty is the youth of old age!” This quote certainly puts a positive spin on turning fifty and made me feel good about moving into the next decade and more.
Here are my thoughts on the good and bad of turning fifty.
You are Alive!
The biggest overwhelming feeling I had on my birthday was one of gratitude; gratitude that I was alive and well and I made it to fifty. In April of this year, a vibrant high school friend of mine passed away, and she was going to turn fifty in July. Her death really hit me hard as it was so sudden and completely out of the blue.
I thought about people who have died all over the world in the carnage caused by COVID. I thought about my older sister who died in a train accident when she was twenty-five. I wished she was alive and she would have turned fifty last year and we could have been members of the fifty-year-old club together. Life is so unpredictable, every day we wake up alive and breathing is a gift.
You are Wiser
In Hindi, there is a proverb which states “Maine Dhoop mein baal safed nahi kiye hain.” The literal translation of this idiom is “I have not turned my hair white in the sun.” The broader meaning is that your hair turns white from life experiences and the invaluable wisdom you gain as you get older. I have learned from the mistakes I have made over the years and now I have better insights and knowledge about life.
Increase in Self-Esteem and Confidence
I struggled with low self-esteem in my teens, but as a fifty-year-old, I feel more confident than ever about my looks and personality. It is indeed ironic that I did not realize how beautiful I was when I was younger and slimmer. Now, despite the added pounds and wrinkles and the grey hair, I think I am gorgeous and the world reciprocates my thought and the positive energy I exude. I have evolved into a stronger, bolder, and better version of myself.
You Appreciate More
As I am getting older, I am more thankful and more appreciative. I feel more, and I am more empathetic. On my fiftieth birthday, I got an abundance of birthday wishes, and I felt deeply grateful for each one. My children wrote me beautiful cards and I cried tears of happiness. My love language is words of affirmation, so every beautiful wish lifted my spirits and put me on cloud nine. In my fifties, I feel content, and I count my blessings every day. I do not worry about the grass being greener on the other side, I know how to water my own grass and be happy.
The Courage to Say ‘Yes’ and the Confidence to Say ‘No’
I am finally learning to say ‘yes’ to opportunities I am interested in, whether it is a girls’ spa weekend or a desire to travel solo to attend a school reunion in India. I commemorated my fiftieth birthday by getting a professional makeover photoshoot, as I had always wanted one. I loved getting my hair and makeup done and enjoyed posing for pictures. My husband wanted to throw me a big birthday party, and as much as I love my friends and family, I said no, as that is not how I wanted to spend my birthday.
I think many fifty-year-old women can identify with night sweats and hot flashes. I need the air conditioner to be really low at night. All of the hormonal changes leading to menopause are the worst. Mood swings, pimples, being over-sensitive; you revisit the roller coaster of emotions you felt in your teens! I am so ready for my monthly cycle to be finally over, hopefully soon.
Aches and Pains
Unless you have really taken good care of yourself by eating right and exercising, your body is not the same anymore as when you were young. I recently slipped and fell, and it is taking forever for my bruised sacrum to heal. You get tired way more easily and your energy levels are just not the same! There are bladder control issues, and I cannot pass a restroom without using it!
I remember faces but I cannot remember the names which go with those faces, and it is embarrassing when you meet people you know but you have forgotten their names or the names of their children. I struggle with remembering my passwords to different accounts and I have to write them down.
Recently, we visited our middle son, who is interning at a software startup near Washington DC. He took us to an Asian grocery store called GV market and we picked up a lot of groceries and stood in line to purchase them but we could not check out as we did not have enough cash with us. Their credit card machines had malfunctioned and were not working. There were no ATMs nearby.
After leaving the groceries behind at the store, we went to a Mediterranean place for dinner. At dinner, my husband asked Arjun what food preparations we can make with the sliced lamb we purchased at GV market. I saw that Arjun was looking at his dad with a puzzled expression, and yet my husband’s question never struck me as odd. I had a sudden fear that the GV market groceries might defrost in the car trunk and I told my husband and Arjun, “Omg, I hope the groceries don’t go bad in this heat!” Arjun just shook his head and smiled and reminded us old folks that we never did buy those groceries!
The hardest part of getting older is that your children are now young adults who are flying away from the nest. While we as parents are proud of them, we are happy to see them grow up into smart, independent and caring humans, yet our hearts hurt as we miss them terribly when they are away and we count days to when we can see them again. It is the worst heartache and I am holding on to my youngest who still has two years of high school left.
All else aside, I know that the good of turning fifty outweighs the bad. I know that life is unpredictable and everything that is given can be snatched away in an instant, yet, I am learning to live mindfully and to enjoy the present. That is my biggest goal right now and it is the best way to live your life.
As I am getting older, I realize that I do not need to put up with condescending and competitive people because that is not me. I realize that it is okay to have fewer friends, and it is okay to live life on your own terms.
I am the happiest I have ever been and I completely agree with Ingrid Bergman when she says, “Getting old is like climbing a mountain; you get a little out of breath, but the view is much better!”