I just turned 50! I kind of want to shout it from the rooftops. And kind of not.
I've been reading more and more about how 50 is the new 30. Sounds great on the surface, until I consider what my thirties actually looked like: three school-aged sons, a baby on the way, and the worst acne of my life. Not necessarily a life stage I'd like to revisit.
As I approached the big 5-0, I also caught wind of a growing phenomenon among Millennials—something called a "quarterlife crisis."
To that I say, Oh, no, no, no. I've been waiting far too long to have a true, full-blown midlife crisis. After graduating college, quickly marrying, and then moving into my career and motherhood almost simultaneously, I've felt on the verge of a breakdown plenty of times, and became all too familiar with the psalmists' cries for wisdom and mercy. Believe me, if a quarterlife crisis had been a thing when I was in my 20s, I would have had one. But it wasn't, so I put a lid on my dark ponderings for the past three decades, waiting for the day I could legitimately cry "Uncle." And that day has come. No one who's lived half the years I have is going to rob me of this moment.
Not to diminish anyone's experience—life can be confusing in your 20s, and young adults today are more stressed out than ever before. And like it was for George Harrison, it'll probably be unclear at Thirty-Three & 1/3 (the album he released commemorating both his age and the speed at which the record spun). Forty probably won't feel much better. And 50 … let's just say whatever you didn't figure out at 20, 30, and 40 will reach a crescendo, and you'll be stunned at how loud you want to scream along.
That's where I find myself today. Crying out to God for wisdom to understand how to age gracefully in a world that values all things fresh and new.
Why does Dr. Oz care about my belly fat?
Throughout this past year, I've noticed a disturbing pattern on my Facebook page: Around the same time I started to get a little inner tube around my mid-section, I started seeing banner ads on web pages seducing me with secrets for losing belly fat. Dr. Oz's tips about losing belly fat and getting rid of wrinkles started emerging on my news feed, and I never even friended him.
I still don't know what the mystery food is that will eliminate my squishy spots. But apparently some stealthy algorithm has deduced that I'm among the women of a certain age who should be concerned about this unsightly feature. And I am. A little. But I'm not concerned enough to sign up for Pilates or get serious about a 40-day juice fast.
I'm also not concerned about the numerous individuals who have asked me this year if I color my hair. I don't, and never have. Unless you count the time in my youth when I squeezed lemon juice all over my head to activate natural blond highlights, which didn't work, although it did make my hair really squeaky. A few years back, I decided the grays that are now streaking my dark brown hair are highlights. If 50 is the new 30, then gray can be the new blond. And logically, 150 can be the new 120.
I might be a little paunchy, but frankly, I've earned it. My hips are wide because—guess what—they needed to be to birth four kids.
Those crows' feet that frame my eyes are genetic laugh lines from my dad that remind me I've lived four years longer now than he had the chance to.
As for the jiggly jowls and double chin, I wouldn't be too sad to see them go. But at the same time, they signal the change that's taken place in me.
At 50, I've lived long. Gravity has taken its effect as the laws of nature insist it will. Botox could reverse this. Believe me, some days I'd like to erase the scowl that forms involuntarily on my brow and makes people think I'm crabby. A little injection right between my eyes—no one would need to know.
I know there are more important things in life than the size of my love handles and the age spots on my skin. Scripture and Dove's real beauty sketches have taught me that.
Yet everything around me preaches a different sermon.
I may be having a bit of a crisis struggling to reconcile my new physical reality, and yet I just want to be me. Me at 50. Not a wannabe 30. I kind of just want to let the aging process take place as it will. Is it wrong to ripen naturally?
Sage advice from a youngster
As much as I don't want to concede my midlife crisis to people who are my kids' age, I might need to take some sage advice from author R. Eric Tippen. He tells 20somethings navigating a quarterlife crisis: "Be the 20something your 30-, 40-, 50-something self will be proud to call part of their past."
I wonder what kind of 50-year-old my 60-, 70-, and 80-year-old self would be proud of? Probably someone wise enough to take advantage of the benefits associated with getting older. Like an AARP card and the increasing confidence and sense of self that comes from having lived half a century.
Apparently lots of people think 50 is an age to be proud of. In a recent online poll, 2,252 Americans of all ages agreed that if they could live forever in good health at a particular age, 50 is the age they'd want to be. Imagine that—folks coveting 50.
It's good to be a quinquagenarian
I'm glad my 20s, 30s, and 40s are way behind me. And on my 50th birthday, God reminded me why: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit" (John 15:5). This was the verse that floated into my brain as I woke up that morning.
Fruit that never spoils even if my aging body does. A way to stay connected to the master gardener, the source of all life, instead of clinging to the world's lies about getting old. Yes, please.
I turned 50, and I've got good reason to shout this from the rooftops!
Are you with me?
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