The Big 5-0MG!
On August 13, I celebrated 50 years of this “brutiful” thing we call life. It was a moment I had anticipated with dread for the majority of the past year, although I couldn’t really put my finger on why. It’s just a number, right? Hmmmm…
Somewhere around the end of our 30s, there is a common phrase we often say to one other on milestone birthdays and that is, “well, you don’t look it.” I’ve often said it myself, and I meant it as a compliment, too. This year, however, it made me wonder, “What does 50 look like and why do we not want to look it?”
When I was little I remember thinking my grandparents were REALLY old. Truth be told, they were probably just in their late 40s and early 50s, but to me they seemed ancient. In all fairness, 50 years ago people weren’t necessarily as health and beauty conscious as they are now. There wasn’t a cycle or yoga studio on every corner, and you couldn’t filter up a photograph. In fact, back then, smoking wasn’t even considered to be too terrible.
In today’s world, however, both women and men are active well into their later years. In many ways our quality of life is better and we have more resources at our disposal to keep us looking and feeling our best. But in other ways, that “convenience” has added an extra level of stress and pressure to our lives that wasn’t there half a century ago. It’s a pressure to never slow down. To constantly hustle or risk getting left behind. And for heaven’s sake—use a filter on that photo before you post it!
I remember the surprised looks on people’s faces when, at the age of 47, I announced that I was leaving a secure job with one of the largest companies in Texas (not to mention a nice paycheck and phenomenal perks) to pursue my passion for fitness, an industry often associated with youth and, let’s face it, a certain “look” that our society doesn’t often equate with middle age. I wasn’t 100 percent sure how I was going to do it—and it ended up looking quite different than I imagined—but in a good way because, for me, it’s not about a stylized Instagram feed or an “image” to project. It’s not about a number on a scale or a size on a label. It’s about how I feel, the things I am physically able to do, and the good health I am fortunate enough to enjoy. I became driven by a need to convince other women that they, too, could look and feel their best, and enjoy a quality of life that would allow them to not just survive but to thrive at any age.
Here’s the thing: I honestly believe that age is irrelevant when it comes to chasing your goals or trying new things. My personal mantra is that the “death of curiosity is the birth of complacency.” I believe in reinvention. I believe in pushing limits. I believe in getting uncomfortable in order to grow. I do not believe in the words “I can’t.” So what’s the problem? The problem is that as much as I believe those truths, there are some other truths that are becoming harder to ignore. Every creak of my knees when I stand. Every sag in my skin and line on my face. Every gray hair on my head. Every time I reach for my “cheaters” to see the fine print. Don’t misunderstand, I am not beating myself up here—I’m simply pointing out that at some point all of us get these little mortality “reminders” in the form of physical changes. Our bodies are designed to age—but I believe that how they age is largely up to us. I’m not talking about the cosmetic things like hair color and Botox (although Lord knows I embrace both wholeheartedly). I’m talking about what we feed them, how we move them, and what we tell ourselves about them as they begin to show the normal signs of a life well lived.
So back to the question that had me dreading the birthday---what does 50 look like? Who can say? Two weeks in, and I’m still trying to figure it out. But what I know for sure is that it looks like happiness to still be here doing all the things. It looks like gratitude for new opportunities. It looks like fun and new adventures! It looks like liberation and empowerment. It looks like strength in the face of adversities and challenges. It looks like wisdom from experiences. It looks like survival in the face of hurts and betrayals. It looks like confidence in its abilities. It looks like uncertainty about the future, and nostalgia for the past. Honestly, it looks like whatever the hell I want it to, but in a word? It looks like ME—and I’m 100 percent okay with that :)