Turning Fifty

15 Jul

When I was a young girl, I remember thinking how very strange it would be to enter a new millennium. My adolescent mind pictured the year 2000 like a Jetson’s cartoon, where people lived in colonies on the moon; where jet-packs were the norm and people flew around in domed space cars. How ridiculous that this all seemed plausible to me. Never once did I imagine anything as miraculous as the internet or smart phones.

I was born into the very last group of Baby Boomers and to be honest, I was quite comfortable hanging out in the twentieth century. The thought that the date would someday turn to the year 2000 seemed unfathomable to me. Once, during my seventh grade Social Studies class, I was so bored that I began doodling the numbers 2-0-0-0 on my beat-up Pee-Chee folder (right next to “Jessie X Brian = LUV”). I did the math and figured out that I would be thirty-seven years old when the date changed from 1999 to 2000.  This flabbergasted me—thirty-seven was ancient!

As did many of the young girls of my generation, I began to resent the sluggishness of time. Back then, the days seemed to move by in an unhurried fashion, drifting slowly along like the carefully crafted origami boats that I folded with precision and let float down the neighborhood creek. The air was pure, the skies were bright blue and the earthy scent of blooming algae drugged me into a state of lazy repose. Only the shock of the icy water on my curled-up toes kept me from falling into a deep sleep under the shady sycamore trees that lined the creek.

I was too young to understand the beauty of those sweet and languorous days. I soon became swept up in the tumultuous time of the early 1970’s and I got caught in the rush to grow up. I became bored with the slow passage of time, and in my impatience I began to long for something more—something better than what I thought I had.

I ached to be older; I wished to grow up as fast as possible and become beautiful and desirable—I wanted to be wanted. I prayed nightly for my body to look good in a bikini, for my period to start—to finally reach sixteen so I could go out on dates with boys. I was more than ready to leave my childhood behind; I wanted to grow up and be a woman. Damaging words began to form in my mind and their weight grew heavier as each year passed: “If only (fill in the blank) happened, then I would be happy.”

If only I could grow up, then I would be happy.

The joke’s on me though, because 2012 is here and today I turn fifty years old. I’ve finally grown up. How did that happen? I only looked away for a second and the years blew by me like the Santa Ana winds that gust through the dry canyons in September. I want a do-over! I want to climb into that girl’s nimble twelve-year old body and run and run, the wind whipping my long mane of wavy hair as I gallop to nowhere.

I wish I could go back in time and shake some sense into that silly girl and tell her to slow down and relish those days when her body was firm and agile and life was simple. I’d tell her to leap off the high-dive into that cold clear water and feel the bubbles tickle her body as she rises to the surface. I’d tell her to stop worrying so much about what was to come, but to spend her time savoring the simple and uncomplicated moments that make up her life.

My obsession with chocolate cake started very early.

I’m now a middle-aged woman living in a fifty year-old body—one that is tired and sore at times, but inside I’m still that girl who wants to run free. What has changed is that my many years of experiences have given me wisdom, and I now realize the significance of the so-called “mundane.” I’ve lived a long fifty years, and I’ve learned that it’s not some intangible future destination that holds the key to my happiness—it’s the “right now.”

Lucky for me, I still have time to learn to be deliciously present in every single moment. It won’t always be easy, but as I take that deep breath and blow out those fifty candles on my double layer, dark chocolate birthday cake, I’ll make a wish for the strength to continue to be grateful for all that I have—right now, at this very moment in time.


15 Responses to “Turning Fifty”

  1. Tracey July 16, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    Great post. I know just what you mean about resenting the sluggishness of time when I was a teen.
    Happy birthday!

    • Allegro non tanto July 16, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

      Thank you, Tracey! Back then we wanted everything to speed up and now we only wish it would slow down!

  2. darlenecraviotto July 16, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. The very nature of youth is impatience – We have all been in a hurry to grow up. It’s only when we hit a certain age that we start to slow down and appreciate the view that surrounds us. Enjoy the view (and wisdom) you have at 50 – you’ve earned it. Many happy returns for a beautiful birthday!

  3. Betty Pierskalla July 16, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    Happy Birthday Jessie, My 50’s were the happiest and healthiest decade. Enjoy every moment..The sixties “suck”, and seventies …well..enuf said.
    Activity for 50th birthday. Get your music friends to send page 50 of any music manuscript they wish and make a book of them. It is fun. I am going to bring you over a couple of them myself.

    • Allegro non tanto July 16, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

      I’m always happy to learn from your wisdom, Betty! I am looking forward to my fifties–that’s for sure. Sixties and seventies–we’ll just have to see about that!

  4. Michele Abbott July 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    You bet Jessie. Happy Birthday and savor the moment. I decided a while ago as I got older that not only had I better get on with enjoying the now, I am grateful for actually making it this far! It seemed this age would be ancient and these years were so far away. Now they are here… but thankfully and luckily… so are we. Not unscathed, not perfect and certainly in some ways not anything like I envisioned. But here and still celebrating Birthdays. I am happy to have such amazing friends to celebrate with. You are so special Jessie. Own it sister! You really are. Have a great 50th Bday.

    • Allegro non tanto July 16, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

      Your words mean so much to me, Michele, especially the “Own it sister” part! You are so special to me, too. Love you, girl!

  5. Becky Green Aaronson July 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Happy Birthday, Jessica! Here’s to reveling in the moment and celebrating each wonderful and imperfect thing about yourself. Woot Woot to the freedom of 50!

    • Allegro non tanto July 16, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

      In celebrating our imperfections, we can let go of that need to be perfect, and that is a huge relief! Here’s to my fifties!!

  6. Gabriela July 17, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    Dear Jessie
    best wishes on your Birthday, hope you are healthy happier and enjoying sunny days with your loved Ones.P.S. have emailed you to Rene’s mailbox, hope you received that as well, Gabriela.

    • Allegro non tanto July 17, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

      Thanks so much for your warm wishes, Gabriela! I am enjoying the summer with my family and friends!

  7. DEBatterman July 20, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Fifty is a marker — no getting around it. All the more reason I felt compelled to celebrate on off years — 29,39. Then came the big Five-O — a party that would have been a surprise if I weren’t smarter than my husband (ha ha). Seriously — now that’s already more than ten years ago, and, like you, I find myself embracing that spirited younger self of mine. . . and doing all I can to slow down time.

  8. Charla Bregante July 26, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    Just perfect, Jessie. Hard to believe we’re hitting it this year. But as you said to me recently, aren’t we lucky that we are learning to love and appreciate what we have NOW.

    • Allegro non tanto July 26, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

      We are so lucky! I think each decade just gets better and better!

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