Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night jolted by the fact that I am now
50 years old.

For a brief moment, I think it’s all just a big mistake, a cosmic
joke, and that I am really still only 35.  I seem to be able to see my former
selves so clearly at 3am…there I am at 22, rushing towards my first job, at
30, clueless and having my first child, and at 45, stumbling into midlife.

I begin to wonder if I’ve wasted years, lost opportunities, missed beauty, missed
the point, and I almost move into panic when an unexpected calm arrives and I
suddenly know for certain that it’s all been grist for the mill, it’s all really
been about growth. My own growth is what I take with me into these
golden years, it is the constant that I get to keep as time passes and youth

In the middle of the night, it becomes clear that I was right where I
needed to be at each decade. I needed  to be driven in my twenties to know how
to relax at 50, to be surprised  by the challenges of motherhood in my thirties,
so that I could rise to the occasion and meet them, to wrestle with midlife so
that I could learn to let go of one stage of life and enter another.

It’s so easy, here at middle age, to begin to pine for our youth, to
have regrets, to think we missed the mark, to beat up on our younger selves.
While there is loss, and necessary grief for things past,  maybe something
bigger is also going on… maybe life is always moving us towards
something and aging is that movement along a giant learning curve. Maybe we get
to learn compassion for those younger selves who were doing the best that they
could and bringing us to where we are right now.

Maybe 50 is a grand culmination of all of those selves who fought so hard to get here.

And maybe I can wake up in the middle of the night with relief that I have made it to 50 and am not 35 anymore.