During a recent gathering of neighbors at the local pool my friend Nancy whipped out a spice cake and began to sing “Happy Birthday.” I was confused. Whose birthday was it? Surely not mine. I was born in August. She announced to all my friends that we were celebrating the occasion early since I would be working in China when it rolled around. And then she told everyone that I was turning 50. I was mortified. My head fell into my hands. I felt like I had been outted.
I have been running from this birthday. In fact, running as far away as I can. On my birthday I’ll be so busy working at the Olympics in Beijing I won’t even have time to think about it. That’s by design. I don’t want to acknowledge the occasion or be around others who will. I am in denial. But why all this angst about turning the page? I don’t look 50. I don’t feel or act 50 (but then again what does 50 look or feel or act like?) Why then is it so hard for me to admit this milestone to myself and others? Will I be somehow diminished personally and professionally? Will obstacles get in my way?
I notice friends dance around the subject. “Are you celebrating a zero birthday,” Nick said. Scott gingerly asked me how old I was but couldn’t bring himself to say the “F” word. I finally said it for him. Heather, my best friend of 35 years, and I moan about this repeatedly. Not so long ago we were kids. How did this happen? Where did the time go? When my mother turned 50 I was producing a live television show in Wichita, Kansas. We called her on the air. She was stunned. I wonder if she had the same feeling of being outted that I did. I’m not sure she ever forgave me. I guess it’s true what goes around comes around.
So now that my secret is out, how do I make the best of this? By being forced to confront it, all of a sudden I am seeing the amazing accomplishments of people my age and beyond. I am inspired by women like Madonna and Caroline Kennedy who also turn 50 this year. How about Hillary Clinton? It’s impossible to ignore what she managed to achieve at age 60. I see vigorous people who are relevant and worldly and constantly re-inventing themselves. They are not aging quietly. They are exuberant in causes and politics and bring years of experience and wisdom to their families and tasks. They burst with creativity and energy and laugh heartily. There is a certain self assuredness when one has loved and lost and lived to tell about it. The women that I’m meeting and discovering are enlightened and spiritual and forward thinking.
For the last few years, as I’ve navigated the waters of mid-life, I have been looking back. It is time to look forward. There are many opportunities and adventures ahead. Of course, I need to be realistic. There will be challenges. There were no guarantees in the last 50 years and there certainly aren’t any in the next 50 years but it’s time to come out of the closet and embrace this passage. Sophia Loren said “there is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” It took a push to find clarity, so thanks for the birthday gift, Nancy.
For more information about Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com