In 1987, there was a popular television series called thirtysomething. It was about a group of yuppie baby boomers in their thirties who were dealing with the angst of selling out their hippie ideals for suburbia America. I loved the women on that show because they made me feel better about my own angst for the same reasons. We met one night a week on ABC to let it all out; it was cheaper than therapy.
I related to Nancy (though I secretly wished I were Ellyn – Nancy probably did too), with her philandering husband, unhappy marriage, single parenting in a two-parent home, cancer scare, and tension between career and family. It was like the writers were window peeping into my house and telling my story through Nancy. I bought a pink thirtysomething tee shirt that I wore with regularity, solidifying my commitment to Hope, Nancy, and Ellyn. We got each other.
The show ended in 1991, and after a ridiculously dramatic and drawn out divorce, my marriage ended in 1994. Mercifully, I was at the end of my thirties. I blamed that decade for trying to suck the life out of me. When most women were claiming to be thirty-eight for five years in a row, I couldn’t wait to turn forty. Leaving my thirties behind would be a relief. Bring on the birthday cards with the black balloons and over-the-hill sentiments; I was ready to create a new me.
For my fortieth birthday, I went to Paris. I was raising four children alone on a teacher’s salary and the state-ordered minimum child support. My parents, bless them, bought me the ticket. One late night in June, at the top of the Eiffel Tower, I was watching fireworks over the City of Lights and feeling very alone – not lonely – just alone. I closed my eyes and stood there in the night breeze, making peace with life, and for the first time in as long as I could remember, being filled with gratitude. It was a glorious moment. That was the beginning of honoring milestone birthdays.
I spent my fiftieth birthday in Mexico. Where better to indulge in a festive celebration after decade of independence? During my forties my four children all graduated from high school without becoming pregnant or being jailed, which in itself is cause for celebration. I moved across the country, changed my career, pursued an awakened consciousness, learned about energy healing, and realized that I could do a lot more than I thought I could. I didn’t think life could get any better, but the future proved me wrong.
I’m nearing the end of my fifties now, and what a fabulous ride this decade has been. I quit my job and began working for myself, fell in love, started painting and writing again, began a daily yoga practice (not the contortionist kind, the energy movement kind), backpacked through Central America, and now am in the midst of a solo move to Panama to be an expat for awhile. With each decade I have become a little braver, a little bolder, and a little wiser.
As I move into my sixties, I see no reason to change directions just because we live in a society that exults youth. If I had succumbed to that way of thinking, how differently the last twenty years would have gone. Now, looking back at the unkind decade of my thirties, from the vantage point of almost sixty, I realize it was the inspiration for the rest of my life. It gave me the courage to follow my own unconventional life path, which was far more fun than what was expected of me. I have increasingly become more of my authentic self, and I’m looking forward to the full bloom of my sixties, seventies, and beyond.
Where will I celebrate my sixtieth birthday? I’m thinking Tuscany, Italy. After all that Frances Mayes has done to bring the beauty of this part of Italy to life for the rest of us, it would be a shame not to go. Yes, this is a good choice for a sixtieth. One thing will be certain; wherever I am, I will be wearing a tee shirt that reads: sixtysomething.
This was a guest post by Karen Lee. Thanks Karen for sharing your wisdom with the Sixty and Me community!
Happy 60th birthday! What will you do on your next milestone birthday? Tell us in the comments below.
Tags Getting Older