Why I Feel Bolder In My 50s Than Ever Before
Sometimes I don't even recognize myself.
Sometimes I don’t recognize myself anymore. Who is this bold person, relentlessly pushing herself beyond the boundaries of her comfort zone? I wasn’t always like this. I lived much of my life in fear. Fear of change. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of what other people think. And then something big happened. I turned 50!
Though the change from fearful to courageous didn’t exactly happen overnight, hitting the Big 5-OH was a major turning point for me. For the first time in my life, my fear of not doing something was greater than my fear of doing it. "If not now, then when?" became my motto.
Ever since I was a young girl I wanted to be a writer. However, the idea of baring my soul prevented me from joining the high school newspaper or studying journalism in college. My skin was so thin it was transparent. When I first began writing professionally at 45, I did so anonymously. When the editor of a bucket-list publication requested that I use my real name on my byline and promote my work on Facebook, I broke out in hives.
With every new article and social media post, the next one came a little easier. Living out loud felt thrilling.
“The middle of life is a natural time for reflection on one’s life: How is it going? Is this all there is? Do I want to make changes?” shared Margie Lachman, director of the Lifespan Developmental Psychology Laboratory at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, in The Guardian.
At 51, I finally built up the nerve to fulfill a lifelong dream of going to graduate school to study journalism. While the gutsiest part might have been taking the graduate school entrance exam — I hadn’t flexed my math muscles in years and I still wasn’t over the humbling experience of my SAT — the bravest part was sitting in class every day with students half my age. Pushing past my discomfort required a fearlessness and fortitude I didn’t possess in my younger years. I was tired of being afraid. Well-meaning friends, who thought I was brave, and perhaps, a little crazy to suffer through exams and homework and juggling family responsibilities, questioned why I would want to put myself through all this.
The truth is, I was propelled by a manic sense of urgency. I knew that if I didn’t try then, I probably never would. The thought of not reaching my goal and facing a life of regret was unbearable. After years of being “mom,” not only did I find myself again, I was a new and improved version: I felt badass. This midpoint is also a time for taking chances.
“Midlife is a great time for shedding external expectations, for honoring who we are and our own needs. Many of us are finally ready to craft a future unbounded by society, family, and self-imposed goals that no longer fit who we are,” said Helene Stelian, midlife empowerment coach and founder of Next Act For Women. Our 40s are also a time for discovering ourselves again.
“We become more comfortable with ourselves and less concerned about what society thinks of us. I have shifted from being someone’s mom to someone who has an identity of my own,” shared Sharon Greenthal, writer at Empty House Full Mind and founder of the The Empty Nesters Community Facebook group.
After a lifetime of playing it safe and watching others take risks while I observed from the sidelines, I knew in my soul that the only way for me to truly grow is by starting to live fiercely.
I remember sitting in an audience and wishing, once again, that it were me standing on the stage speaking in front of a crowd. I was done being afraid. So, I started speaking about freelance writing and social media at conferences and on college campuses. Yes, I was slightly terrified. It was also one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
“I’ve talked to many who hate the aging process so actively that fighting it takes up a huge portion of their life energy,” said Dr. Margaret Rutherford, psychologist and author of Perfectly Hidden Depression: How to Break Free from the Perfectionism that Masks Your Depression.
According to Rutherford, the key to a happy and fulfilling second half is to focus on the future and not the past.
“When women pass 50, in some ways, their lives get better. It’s like: Who cares? What do we have to lose to not be brave?” declared Jane Fonda in a New York Times interview.
I’ve finally figured out that we’re all a little frightened, so we might as well do it anyway. Find a posse of women who think the same way you do: Those who are not going quietly into the night. And then join me as we become our best badass selves.