On Saturday, I turned 42. Forty-two, which is halfway to eighty-four. This seems to be pretty officially, numerically speaking, the middle of life, the middle being a place that is generally thought to be somewhat uncomfortable and definitely pretty lame. Neither here nor there. Not this, and not that. Not bad, but definitely not good. Not young and not yet really old. The middle of the pack. Stuck in the middle. The Middle Ages (ugh). Middle school (ughhhhhh). The middle child (me) – the one who gets lost between the trailblazing first born and the poignant charm of the baby. The middle.
And now, middle age. I am enjoying this middle. Life as a grown up has never once felt like I expected it would when I was a younger person. It’s just…life. And one of the open secrets about life is that it’s all about the journey, maaaan. When you’re young, you kind of expect that one day you’re just going to get it. You’ll be a grown ass grown-up who has the keys to all of the doors in grown-up land. That, of course, is not at all true, but still seems to be the general vibe about adulthood and is probably the reason why everyone has impostor syndrome. But the truth is, nobody really knows what the hell they’re doing. They’re just doing life, which on its best day is being in touch with yourself enough to know who you are and what you value and trying your best to do the next best thing that aligns with that.
What I really didn’t expect about this place, this middle life, is that there are endless layers to peel back, bottomless depths to explore if you so choose – and they just keep going no matter your age! That’s where the good stuff lies. Those deep down and way out there layers, where you can really pick up some grown ass grown-up wisdom and start to connect the dots in your own personal constellation. What I didn’t expect is that this middle place, even with all of its tiresome adulting, is pretty groovy. And it definitely doesn’t have to be boring.
Lately, I’ve been feeling the kind of beautiful creative, emboldened optimism I felt when I was in my very early twenties. I can do anything! I am entitled to joy for the sake of joy! My creative voice is unique and it matters! I can wear caftans every day if I want! You know, the kind of ideas that tend to slowly get dulled in early-mid adulthood as the crushing reality of paying bills and living life as you thought you were supposed to thanks to family conditioning and the capitalistic patriarchy starts to wear you down. Reality happens. You begin to settle or a dream just doesn’t work out or feel the way you thought it would. Sometimes you let yourself fall asleep on the whole thing, forgetting about the layers and the depths that are there for you to explore, the creative ideas that you meant to unleash upon the world. And then, maybe, if you’re lucky, at some point you wake up – and you feel like all of that life you were living for a while was a dream and now you’re awake, but you overslept, so you’d better get moving! That is the beauty of the middle for me. The middle, like every part of life I guess, can be a beginning – but the glory of the middle is that it is a beginning that is informed by the wisdom of life already lived.
I lived a lot of life between the ages of 22 and 40. I had jobs in six different industries. I traveled. I made and played music with friends and got to perform and travel with them. I became an aunt 4 times. I studied and went to grad school. I celebrated births and birthdays and weddings and things, and I grieved deaths and illnesses and losses. I navigated old and new friendships and romantic relationships, short and long. I fell in and out of love(s). I met my daughter! I became a mom and then a single mom. I experienced incredible, expansive highs and devastating, heart shattering lows. I have lived a LIFE that I am so grateful for. I am incredibly privileged. And all of these experiences have been important – some absolutely transcendent and transformational, some the result of decisions made while I was sleepwalking through life, and many externally focused with a quiet need for validation built in. But all important. I do my best to not wish to change any of them, even the ones that are hard to make peace with. They have all led me here, to the middle, and now I am awake in a way that wouldn’t have been possible even a few years ago. I am more fully myself than I have ever been and living life from that place feels pretty awesome, even when it’s hard (and human life is definitely fucking hard).
Maybe this is what a mid-life crisis look like. Maybe all the people buying red sports cars and taking off from their stable lives in the suburbs to live on a boat in Jamaica are actually just waking up to what authenticity feels like. Or maybe (probably) they’re still searching. I don’t know. I don’t really know much about other people’s lives – but I do know this for sure: You can always wake up. You can always change your experience of life, even when you have very adult responsibilities and circumstances that cannot be changed. Even when the voice in your head tells you that you can’t. Even when you’re 42 or 35 or 73. You can always dive into the layers and the depths to get back to the light that never goes out, the one that lit up that potential and optimism back in the early days. You can always choose to love yourself a little bit more and then live life from THAT place. Always.
I remember when I turned 30, feeling like I had really earned it. I was proud to be aging. Maybe it’s the Aquarian in me – I’ve always liked the idea of time being a construct and all of us existing here and now, and also up there and over there and even back there. Getting older has always felt like a part of that. So, yes, I’m here in the middle now, but I’m also at the beginning. And, hell, maybe at the end as well. I love that I don’t know what my future looks like and I hope I never do because I really like the idea of creating the life I want every day, even if it’s one tiny moment at a time. Even if some days (weeks, months) feel like total shit.
Tonight I’m tipping some out for all my fellow middle-agers. I hope you’re all awake.