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On approaching a milestone birthday

Not that I’m trying to rush the event or anything (believe me!), but lately I’ve been freaking out thinking a lot about my next “milestone” birthday and trying to reconcile my concept of myself with this new, unfamiliar, and (I confess) distinctly uncomfortable age.

Fifty. 50. Five-Zero. The Big 5-0. Half a century.


OK, so it’s not for a couple of years. Three (and a bit), actually.

But it’s out there.

And it’s not right. It just doesn’t fit.

In one of my favourite movies, When Harry Met Sally, Sally (played by Meg Ryan) has a scene with Harry (played by Billy Crystal) where some unexpected news about a former relationship has triggered her anxieties about aging.

Sally: And I’m gonna be forty.
Harry: When?
Sally: Someday.
Harry: In eight years.
Sally: But it’s there. It’s just sitting there, like some big dead end

I totally get that panic. (And I’m far closer to 50 than Sally was to 40!)

I don’t remember being quite this discomfited by previous milestone birthdays. Sure, I may have made the odd playful joke about getting old as I approached 30 (knowing that in truth I really wasn’t), or quipped that it was “all downhill from here!” when I hit 40 (even though in many ways I’d never felt better) – but truthfully, the next birthday has always been, more or less, something I shrugged into fairly easily, quickly adjusting the fit and moving on into the next season of my life.

But 50. This is different.

Birthday CandlesEven though I technically (and quietly) arrived at mid-life several years ago, 50 boldly trumpets the fact.

Even though I know that, had I chosen to have children, I am old enough now to be a grandmother (and have, in fact, been so for several years), 50 assures me that there’s absolutely no doubt about it.

Even though I still feel, both mentally and (mostly) physically, as though I’m in my very early 30s, 50 reminds me that I’ll have passed the thirtieth anniversary of my high school graduation.

In the immortal words of Talking Heads, I ask myself, “Well? How did I get here?!”

It seems unbelievable. And awkward. And wrong… so very, very wrong.

Fortunately I still have three (and a bit) years to get used to the idea of me… me!… turning 50. Three (and a bit) years to prepare myself to arrive at the mid-century mark with at least a modicum of grace. Three (and a bit) years to learn to embrace – maybe even celebrate – this milestone birthday.

I think I’m going to need all the time I can get!

Any suggestions from your own experience? Please share!

Laurel Storey, CZT – Certified Zentangle Teacher. Writer, reader, tangler, iPhoneographer, cat herder, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, needle felter, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Lorinda J. Taylor
    September 12, 2013

    When you pass 70, every birthday is a milestone! LOL
    Lorinda J. Taylor recently posted… Some Random Thoughts, and a Cover RevealMy Profile

  • Corinne Rodrigues
    September 12, 2013

    Would you feel any better if I told you I’m getting there a year before you are! I’ll let you know how it feels, Dawn! 😉 Age is just a number. You’ll be great!
    Corinne Rodrigues recently posted… Suicide PreventionMy Profile

  • Kathy September 12, 2013

    I am 45 and not looking forward to 50 either. It seems so old to me. My mom died at 51 and I guess 50 has always had a little foreboding feel to it because of it. I didn’t really look forward to 40 either, but once I got there I realized…hey this isn’t so bad and I was OK.
    Kathy recently posted… Wordless Wednesday- New TruckMy Profile

  • ElaineLK September 12, 2013

    Oh, you guys are youngsters! I’ll be sixty-three next week, and would you believe me if I told you it just gets better? I really believe that. In spite of all the losses I’ve experienced over the past decade, I really do believe my life is better today than it was when I was younger. Lots has been written about what you gain with age, but for me maybe perspective is the biggest thing. You learn what’s important and what isn’t and how to really appreciate and be thankful for what you have. Dawn, you strike me as a person who will never get old because you keep learning and keep finding new things to be enthusiastic about, and you know there’s always something more to do, learn, and become. That’s what life is about at any age. It’s how I’m trying to live my life. I learned to crochet two years ago and this year I started belly dancing lessons (yes, really). I won’t say it doesn’t freak me out sometimes when I think about being over sixty (and don’t anyone dare call me a senior!), but I believe you’re never old until you think you are, so the fact that you still have the mind-set of a 30-something is great! And if it helps, imagine yourself in ten or twenty years looking back and remembering how young you were in 2013!

    • Laurel Regan
      September 12, 2013

      I love your perspective, Elaine! And yay you for trying so many new things! I am hoping to continue learning and growing as the years pass – seems like the very best way to embrace life at any age.
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Becoming A Responsible CitizenMy Profile

  • Cindy Budd via Facebook September 12, 2013

    Turning 30 bothered me more than turning 40, but 50 is OLD! I have 2 1/2 years to go until 50. The only good thing about it is that I’ll be that much closer to retirement!

  • Winnie September 12, 2013

    Your article made me smile and chuckle. I am 47 and recall that scene from WHMS. Makes me laugh. My sister has been wishing me a Happy 50th for a few years now, just to tease, so this July in a restaurant with her 4 kids, the waiter came out with dessert for my “50th”bday. I was like, no, I have 3 years! Poor kids have no idea how old I am at this rate. I figure in 3 years I will be used to being 50.

  • sandra tyler September 13, 2013

    ok I’m 50. But you can do what I did on my birthday: I ditched the zero. So I’m really only 5:)


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