How I Finally Stopped Chasing Happiness In The Second Half Of My Life
And what I'm pursuing instead.
I’ve recently noticed a trend in my social media feeds that both irks and annoys me, especially when its purpose was to likely do the exact opposite. It’s bad enough that big tech data has an ever-growing amount of infinite information on all my wants, needs, dislikes, likes, age, weight and probably what I ate for dinner last night, but now it’s starting to assume that as I approach age 50, I have yet to find my life’s true purpose.
My feeds are suddenly crowded with a wide variety of life coaches, all of whom are brazenly assuming that I’m currently living an empty and unfulfilling life purpose. They portend that a two- (or six-, or 12-, whatever it takes!) week online course (or in-person spiritual journey at a spa) that shows me all the things I’ve failed to achieve already — and guarantees to teach me virtues like positivity, personal chakras, mental mantras, pilates, veganism, yoga, anti-patriarchal assertiveness, how to start a Fortune 500 corporation, write my memoir and have all the amazing sex I can get — will make the second half of my life THAT MUCH BETTER.
Listen, I’m all about continuing to better one’s emotional and physical self in the second half of life. It’s the reason I still begrudgingly put on a sports bra most days, tell my stretch marks that they’re really war stripes, and remind myself my sagging breasts once served as a deluxe buffet for the nourishment of humans. Body positivity? I got that down pat.
Emotionally, I’ve also reached the age where I’m much better at letting friendships go if they no longer serve me well, and even I’ve been impressed lately with my increased ability to not sweat the small stuff. I am, thankfully, finally growing into a more “big picture life perspective” kind of woman now, and with each additional candle on the birthday cake I’m privileged to blow out, I’m settling more into being content with my current self and less interested in chasing improvements or, quite frankly, huge life goals and accomplishments.
And yet the market for self-help gurus, mentors and life coaches — whose main target as of late appears to be disgruntled and unhappy middle-aged women — is growing by leaps and bounds. For some inexplicable reason, the notion that as a whole we frumpy 50-somethings have done nothing of value with our lives up to this point, and there’s so much more we can and should lean into, is selling faster than supplements promising to rid our menopausal middles of even one extra inch of body fat.
If these snake oil-success saleswomen — aka life coaches — think I’m just lying around wanting MORE to do with my days, they’re completely delusional. As a matter of fact, it’s precisely at around age 50 when I was finally granted permission to embrace that magical mental mantra that says, “I have nothing to prove to anyone anymore,” and that includes myself. Plus, I am just damn tired.
We’re not only bombarded daily with nonstop adverts extolling the virtues of everything from wrinkle cream to thigh highs, but now we’re constantly being sold that the promise of more joy, more peace and more harmony can be extracted only from having more, doing more and striving beyond our reach — especially after age 50. If we just keep chasing down that one thing we meant to do and have before we hit middle age (but missed out on doing and having because our actual lives happened), then we can reach our full potential. Sorry girlfriends, but I’m not buying what these second-half-of-life coaches are selling.
That life? Those chaotic decades of child-rearing, marriage nurturing and friendship cultivating that happened when I was supposed to be checking off monumental achievements, personal career gains, and reaching emotional Zen? That’s the life where I found — and continue to find — my fulfillment. It’s the easy simplicity of my family and my close friends around me, a great meal, a weekend away with some old college pals, and the fact my husband still wants to grab my butt every day.
It’s a body I know is slowly falling apart but still able to serve me in the ways I need it to (no thong required). It’s all the simple things I used to think were just that — simple — that have now turned into the most desirable of all goal heights I actually want to peak. And all those simple joys of life? The ones I know for sure that bring long-lasting happiness, and the kind of life satisfaction that midlife coaches are trying to sell me? Last time I checked, they were still readily available for me to grab hold of all on my own — no coaching needed.