Revelation fatigue and other perks of turning 50

It’s never too late to learn some embarrassingly basic, stupidly obvious things about oneself.” ~ Alain de Botton

Last week I marked my 50th birthday. My daughter asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate and I gave an honest answer. Nothing really, absolutely no party, maybe we can go out to eat. Then I sent her a screenshot of a box of cinnamon tea from Target that I wouldn’t hate to see in a gift bag.

I have all kinds of feelings about turning 50. But not the kind I thought I would. And definitely not the kind that pop up in google searches about turning 50. I looked them up because I look up everything. I like to compare and contrast to see if I relate to my peers or feel completely at odds with them. (We’re all part middler-schooler.)

It was a mix because most of the articles began by listing all of the “stuff we know about things” by the time 50 gets here. A lot of it was true. Like way down deep in the gut true. If there was a shirt with the quote “I know stuff about things,” I’d wear it. I can’t claim they are things that would serve the general population but they’ve done some good for me. I’ve earned a shirt.

The problem with many of the articles I read was how they ended. Most, after ensuring wisdom is the big prize, closed with denial and “not having to turn 50 after all,” by shutting our eyes and saying “you can’t see me.”

Where’s the fun in that? There’s one alternative to not turning 50 and I choose the birthday.

It helps to have a good role model. In my card this year my active and independent 80-something mom wrote, “Hope you enjoy your 50th birthday. Good age!” She has told me many times that ages 40-60 are the best. I haven’t asked her about 61, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Of all the thoughts I’ve had and words I’ve read about this milestone, one phrase from New York Times writer Pamela Druckerman stuck with me.

Youre more settled,” she wrote. “The 40s bring an explosion of new insights and the feeling that its now-or-never to change your life…In the 40s youre still in chaos…In the 50s, you have revelation fatigue and just want to enjoy what youve learned.”

That is for sure.

There are things I’ll never do that have taken up a lot of my thinking time and energy. It’s becoming clearer that they’re not going to happen. There’s some disappointment in that—all of those what-ifs—but for the most part, it feels just fine.

There are surprises that come with each year. I admit to being a slow processor, even a slow learner with some big life stuff. But even if I wasn’t, I would have been thrown by one major misconception about middle age. The not-knowing isn’t over. From the misreading of people and situations to self-doubt to occasionally glancing around for the grown-up in the room. Adulting will always be hard, even for the adultier-adult.

That’s the downside. But it’s nothing new.

The upside is another surprise. Everything is pretty much the same. If anything becomes more urgent, it has to be owning the day I’m in. I’m the one who carved out whatever life I’m doing here, so I won’t misplace blame for parts I’m not crazy about. Luckily, those don’t dominate my mind anyway. I don’t have all the time in the world like I did at 20 or 30, but I am figuring out how to use it smarter.

This is my rookie view of the “middle” so far. I’m just a newbie around here but I guess you still get birthday cake. And maybe some cinnamon tea. We’ll see what happens.

Written By
More from Shelley Plett
A window on life and dreams
?Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life?dream of it,...
Read More