“So, is it a big birthday?”
“They’re all big birthdays now.”
That was my response to someone asking about my upcoming birthday. I said it with a laugh because even though for the past ten years I’ve joked that all my birthdays are big, I embrace each one. Yes, even the big 49 this year. The last year of my 40s. The last birthday before the big 5-0. When you’ve spent most of your adult life as an obese, unhealthy person, you don’t take for granted the birthdays that come along, no matter what the number.
As kids, I think most of us thought that our 40s were when we would be really old. We would be ancient. My 40s came and I didn’t think that at all! Even before my weight loss surgery when I was 44, I still felt young. It could have been the my children I was running after or the frequent trips to Disney World, but I didn’t feel old. At least my mind didn’t feel that way, but my body did. It was hard to keep up with my family and friends when I was 100 pounds heavier.
My world opened up after I lost weight, both physically and mentally. I’m a runner now. I love walking instead of just sitting around. With each birthday, I become stronger physically. I tried ice skating again after a 20 year gap. At age 47 I ran my first half-marathon! And at age 49 I’m training for my second. These actions were never part of my plans for when I grew old.
The physical changes as I age are amazing, but I think it’s my outlook on life that surprises me the most. I remember being so scared when I graduated from college. I had no clue what I was going to do with my life besides move across the country to San Francisco. I look back now and see how brave I was, but I felt insecure and unsure of myself for most of my 20s.
I was starting to get braver in my 30s after marriage and eventually children. When you become a parent, you have no choice but to buckle up and get things done. For some of us, that strength comes at a price. I put my mental and physically health on the back burner just trying to get through the day, then the week, then the years.
My 40s were my renewal. My mid-forties were my rebirth. A cross-country move and the resulting personal issues took their toll. I was almost 300 pounds at age 43. It took an honest friend and my ever-supportive husband to help me realize I needed to change and more importantly, that I could change. As a middle-aged woman, I began my weight loss journey which turned out to be a journey about physical and mental health to my surprise.
So here I am looking forward to 49! I feel like I’m coming into my own person again. It could be that I have more time now that my children are getting older. Seeing them grow into independent people is exciting although they still seem to need me to find where they put their clean socks. With their increasing independence, it’s giving my husband and I more time together. While mom will always be an important role, I’m relearning that there are other parts of who I am that can share the space.
This includes spending more time with my hubby that doesn’t alway involve the children or are child-centric activities. As our children grow and spend more time with their friends, we can spend time with our friends or by ourselves. I think we’ve gone out more in our late 40s than we did in our early 30s. We joke with the kids that we’re they’re in college, we’re downsizing to a tiny house and they’ll have to camp in the yard when they visit. We all laugh about it, but it’s really only 8 years away…and we’ll be a very young 57 when that happens!
And I’m using my new independence to define “what I do for a living.” My 20s became the start of a fun and interesting career in the retail industry. I went from being an administrative assistant to a buyer to a project manager running an e-commerce website until I “retired” when I had my babies and became a stay-at-home mom. My late 40s have been me trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. It wasn’t until last year that I finally started calling myself a writer. I’ve been writing this blog for almost five years now, but I was still insecure about calling myself a writer. And when I started working on my novel, I still didn’t say I was a writer. It took my ever-supportive husband drilling it into my head that if I didn’t believe I was a writer, no one else would. So here I am, calling myself a writer.
And this writer is telling you that getting old is not as scary as you might think. Sure I have more wrinkles and more and more gray hairs seem to sprout up, but I will gladly take them. Every decade is full of challenges and struggles, but now I can see that each problem, each disappointment, got me to where I am today. I don’t believe in regret; not worth the time or effort in my humble opinion. There will always be some difficulty in life, but how I deal with it and move on from it makes all the difference.
So this almost 49-year-old mom, wife, friend, family member, runner, and writer is proud of her age. As trite as it sounds, growing old is a gift, especially if you do it as a healthy person. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished over the years, but more importantly I look forward to the upcoming decades as I continue my journey Down the Scale…