I would advise anyone approaching a birthday that makes them feel old, to rush to the nearest university and sign up to for an intense degree program. You’ll either discover that you still have it in you to learn new things, study late into the night, and find yourself daydreaming and planning how you are going to save the world or at least a few patients just like we used to do when we were 20….OR…. you’ll take one look at those 20 somethings with their quick recall, ability to party AND study, and their bodies that haven’t begun to fall apart and want to pack up your books and go home wondering what you were thinking when you decided to go to a one year nursing program.
I have been reflecting about this birthday for a while, and trying to figure out how I feel about this so called “big one.” (it’s 50, in case you didn’t know already) I have a few friends that have arrived here before me, most are way behind me, and one shares the same birthday and birthyear! (happy day to you, Glenda!) At first I rebelled; not against getting older but against how our society overvalues youth and makes fun of the old. I refused to wear makeup, I didn’t cover my gray hair, I talked about my age. I had decided I just wouldn’t give in to the youth culture. I found it is not so easy though. Every time I looked in the mirror some gray-haired woman was looking at me and she just didn’t look at all like I felt. I found myself looking at other women trying to decide if they were older than me or younger than me, were they already part of this club I was about to join, be it unwillingly? I have been in school at the local community colleges with people young enough to be my children and I have to admit that it unnerved me to be in a social culture that I couldn’t really relate to. Even though I have two teenagers, I couldn’t catch on to the lingo, I was confused by the phrases they used and the things they found funny. I felt ignored because I didn’t fit the category of “hot single babe, date material” so they didn’t talk to me. Now I am in a great nursing program with 47 other people just as excited as I am to be there and everyone talks to me, it is a great group of students.
I had dreamed that I would spend my 50th birthday at the beach, the place I like to spend all my birthdays, with my friends and my family, just having a relaxing time. Then I got into nursing school and it turned out that not only did I have to go to school on my birthday, but I had a test! I was sure I would be depressed about it, and that I would spend the day wishing I were anywhere else. But it didn’t turn out that way. I have had a huge turnaround. I changed my mind about the gray hair and had my hair highlighted. Am I succumbing to the youth culture or am I just wanting to have the outside of me look more like the inside of me feels? I don’t know. I do know that I woke up this morning, happy. I sang the whole way in to school, I wasn’t stressed about the exam, I felt relaxed. The happy, joyous feeling is coming from somewhere deeper than I have felt before, it is irrepressible. Nobody and nothing can spoil this day and maybe future days too! I am doing what I want with my life, I have renewed hope in the possibility that I can make an impact on the world. I really think it is that hope that is making me feel so good. I know that I have already done much in raising our kids, I have always said that raising the next generation of competent compassionate citizens is the best contribution anyone can make to the world. And we are doing that, our kids make us proud. But when they step out on their own, I want to continue to contribute and I really feel like nursing is a place for me to do that. So it makes me happy to be where I am, as I mark the end of my 50th trip around the sun I realize I am not sad or depressed to be getting older, I am happy to be here, grateful to be alive and able to move into the next phase of my life. I look in that mirror and it’s not a gray-haired old lady looking back at me, but it is the me I used to know, with an easy smile and eyes and heart full of hope. I vow to stop focusing on the time that is passing or the old age that is coming, but instead to revel in the moments I am experiencing right now. Is 50 over the hill? I don’t think so, what hill? No, 50 is just another step in the journey. I love my life, I am content, I am at peace.