An oversized postcard from our local community college arrived in my mail the other day. Among other exciting announcements, it encouraged the +50 residents in the community to consider getting new career skills because, “50 is the new 30!” To use a phrase my daughter used to say when she was a toddler, the announcement “didn’t feel me better.”
I am in my 50s. At 56, I’m closer to 60 than to 50. When I think about my thirties, I cringe a little. For me, the thirties included some of the most difficult and challenging times of my life. Fun was not a word I used often. To begin with, I was supposedly at my sexual peak, depending on whose study you believe (Cosmo or Kinsey). For most of my 30s, I was a divorcing, single parent of two young children. There was no sexual peaking for me. At all. (Although I did meet the man who eventually became my husband later in my 30s; there was some peaking then.)
There is a popular graphic going around online that acknowledges: “The best part about being over 40 is that we did most of our stupid stuff before the Internet.” Ain’t that the truth. I absolutely did some stupid stuff in my 30s and hopefully most of the evidence rests in the foggy memory of long forgotten acquaintances. I was getting divorced in a very small town; nothing I did went unnoticed. Or got reported back to my ex. Toeing the line became my main hobby. And most of the time, I was successful. Other times, I was let go with a warning.
My 30s were marked with stress, financial desolation, ostracism and tons of wine. Learning how to navigate through that uncharted sea took all of my energy plus skills I didn’t have, but had to learn quickly. I don’t think I always did the best job as a parent; I made the bulk of my parenting mistakes in my 30s. Every recurring nightmare my kids report to their therapists today probably happened during this time. It is ironic that my current day job is being a parent educator; what gives me authority now are all the mistakes that I myself made then.
No, I am quite happy with where I am right now. Certainly society has changed, jobs have changed, retirement has changed. People are doing things in their 50s, 60s and beyond that people like my parents hadn’t even considered: living in other countries, starting new careers, raising a second family. My 30s were a training ground; I’d like to think I’ve gotten a little wiser as I’ve gotten a little older and hopefully I won’t make the same mistakes again. No, I know I won’t. I might make different ones, but with a foundation of experience and a much different outlook. I don’t want to be 30 again. I say 50 is the new 50. And I’m keeping the wine.
*Author's note: I liked writing about this topic. I think I'll revisit it from time to time in the next few months. Please feel free to contribute your ideas or thoughts - here on the blog or via email and I'll incorporate them into the subsequent essays. As long as you're nice about it...