I turned 60 today and there are some things I wish I could have told my 50-year-old self. She was so worried.
Hey there, 50! It’s me, 60. Still alive, as you can see.
You spent the whole year leading up to your 50th birthday in a stew of worry: What tortures does menopause have in store for me? Will I be forced to retire my youthful dreams for more modest “mature” aspirations? Is it too late to fix all the mistakes I made raising my children? How could standing in the wings watching younger performers on stage ever be as sweet as standing in the spotlight myself? Will I become dried up, washed out, sidelined and invisible? Will there still be sex?
I won’t trivialize your pain. It was real enough at the time. But let me clue you in on a few things. The ride from 50 to 60 is going to be wild and rocky, but you’ll do more than just survive.
Some bad things are going to happen that you didn’t even think to worry about: You’ll lose some people you really love — your mother, your father-in-law and your mother-in-law top the list. You’ll cry with many friends as they struggle with loss and pain too. You’ll lose your own breasts and uterus and ovaries over several life-changing months of pain and panic.
Some things will just cruise along — with a few bumps: You’ll survive menopause. Your kids will be fine. They’ll find jobs and become people you like hanging out with and who make you feel like you didn’t totally blow the mom thing. You’ll get a bunion and you’ll need reading glasses and you’ll struggle to keep your weight under control, but you’ll manage. You’ll still have sex. It won’t be the same, but it’ll still be good. Just in a different way. You picked a good man.
Some really amazing, unexpected and wonderful things will happen too: You’ll find your voice in writing and embark on a whole new career. Pain becomes art. Art becomes joy. And all that worry about losing your spot on stage? Just wait until you stand in the wings and hear your words in the mouths of younger performers! You’ll support and encourage other artists in meaningful ways. You’ll rediscover the joy of best girlfriends and treasure them in ways that never crossed your mind when you were so worried about being attractive to men. You’ll still be attractive to men.
So, while there are things to worry about, ultimately there’s nothing to worry about. I have no desire for do-overs. I don’t want to stop the clock now that it’s ticking towards such promising adventures. You saw 50 as a precipice you were teetering on the edge of and it was a long, long way down. But the precipice is where you have to go for the best view. And 60 feels like wings.