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50 is the new 50

“For some reason I feel like 50 is a more significant milestone in my life than just about any other age I’ve yet experienced. I find myself assessing my career, trying to figure out where I want to be in the next 5 and 10 years. I also realize that I’m comfortable in my skin. I know who I am, and I know what I will and won’t put up with. I know what I’m good at and what I suck at. And I’m fine with working with it all, and being honest with others about who I am. I think I’ve never been as comfortable being me as I am now.” — a friend

I dragged myself home today to a cool, quiet house peopled with cats staring off into the distance, then looked up the message where this quote was waiting.

I have several essays that address aging and change, but I haven’t ever put it out on the table quite this clearly as my friend did. Yet it’s all exactly as I feel, just a couple months shy of the half-century mark. I’m much more at peace with the direction of my life. I’m in a wonderful relationship — this fall will be our fifteenth anniversary. I have such good offers for projects and writing I have had to put some on hold. I have some opportunities, some of which will pan out and some will not. I have friends and mentors and mentees and family and neighbors; I’m part of something larger than me.

One of my biggest fears as a child was that I would grow up and be someone else. When I was 11, on a camping trip deep in Big Sur, a camp counselor reassured me, as we stepped through carpets of moist pine, this would not happen, that I would always be myself. He was kind enough not to laugh at me for asking the question. But on reflection, he was so young — he could not have been more than thirty — that he did not know the even better part of this equation: that when you get to a certain age, you get to be more of yourself than you ever have before.

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