Today I turn 50. That’s half a century. Not bad.
This event falls in 2020, a year some people labeled – in a somehow regrettable burst of enthusiasm – “the start of the twenties”. I am sure those people thought about the 1900s twenties, expecting the same amount of glamour, wild life and expansion. An expectation which turned out quite bad, at least so far, as we all know. A global pandemic stopped the planet in its tracks and our lives are so different from what they used to be just a year ago. Not much glamour or wild life. And by being forced inside, we’re mostly experiencing contraction, rather than expansion. But hey, we still have 51 days left until the end of the year, so let’s not complain. Tables have been turned around on much shorter intervals throughout history.
So, my punchline was that I’m turning fifty, on a “twenty vibe”. And I was obviously referring to the actual age I’m feeling like.
While I do feel twenty(ish) most of the time, the landscape of my feelings is a bit more complex.
As my birthday approached, I started my usual introspection process. In previous years, this process ended up with long list posts of the type: “X things I learned last year…”, or “Y things I did…”. I’m not going to do this now.
Because this is such a pivotal age, I also thought about writing something like: “I’m fifty, but I really feel twenty, with thirty years of experience”. That would have made a nice, potentially viral short post on social media. But I’m not going to do this either.
Instead, I’m going to ramble about something else. Namely about the fact that, after 50 years on Earth, life is not getting simpler, or easier – but it gets somehow easier to see through it.
To be honest, I don’t feel exactly like in my twenties, because I mostly sleepwalked through my twenties. Back then, I didn’t have any direction whatsoever – although back then I was way more convinced than now that I know what I want – and I was swinging from one job to another, from one short relationship to another, and from one long party to the next one, in a troubled Romania, which was itself trying to part ways with half a century of communism, brutally engaging in some sort of capitalism. Of course, instead of real capitalism, we got mostly chaos.
And then my thirties were spent mostly trying to prove myself, on as many levels as possible: personally (by engaging in committed relationships) and socially (by creating and managing businesses). It was a different type of sleepwalking, one in which I somehow knew that I’m not fully aligned, but didn’t know exactly what should I do about it. This blog was started in my mid thirties, then became my main focus in my late thirties. For many years, it was a great tool of self-discovery and self-improvement, and it still is.
And then my forties were spent trying to repair whatever got broken during the thirties. Mind you, in the process of proving myself, some parts of my life went upside down and I was kinda forced to fix them. I’m talking about toxic relationships patterns and underperforming, ineffective businesses that I was trying to save, at the expense of my own financial stability, and, sometimes, even physical and mental health. Getting out of that space was difficult, because, again, inertia. Knowing you have toxic patterns is one thing, but breaking up with them is another one, as Morpheus will put it. But, eventually, we parted ways.
And here I am, at the beginning of my fifties. Not sleepwalking through my days, simply because it’s not fun anymore (I can’t even think about losing an entire night partying, that would feel simply empty for me now). I’m not trying to prove myself to anyone anymore, in any way, because it’s useless and weakening (the moment you start doing this, you actually initiate a power transfer to the person, or to the object to which you are trying to prove yourself to). Also, those parts of my life that needed fixing are more or less fixed – or at least not deeply broken anymore.
Like I said in the beginning of the post: not bad for half a century.
As I’m getting older, life is not getting easier, though.
Instead, it’s getting somehow easier to see through it. What do I mean by that?
Well, after decades of mild mistake followed by mild mistake, eventually you learn to spot an incoming one with more clarity. And even if you do fall again in one of those patterns, you get out of it faster. For instance, I’m not completely free from my penchant towards “saving damsels in distress” (the most common toxic relationship pattern I had), but I spot the tendency faster and, if I do happen to engage, I get out in a matter of days, maximum weeks. In my thirties it would have taken me years to gather the lucidity (and the courage) to do so. I’m also not completely cured from my attraction towards “impossible businesses”, but I can watch them from a distance now, and I shield myself from engaging in any of them, by choosing to maintain a stable – albeit not very demanding, truth to be told – day job.
I’m at a point where I know for sure there are still challenges ahead, and, to be honest, I don’t only welcome them, but I’m actually grateful for each and every one of them. I know I will still make mistakes, but I now I know I can make better ones.
And I know that life always unfolds in the direction you nudge it. Sometimes it may seem there are forces outside you that are playing around, and you feel powerless, but even if you can’t defeat them (and most of the time you won’t be able to defeat them), you can always choose how you react. Always.
And the next challenge will always be a little bit easier to see through, if you chose right.