Hello New Year.
There were many topics that I listed for myself, but it has become something of a chore to figure out what people want to hear, or attempting to divine what it is my readers like. Truth be told, I don’t know who my readers are, for the most part. I don’t know what they like, what drives them, what they are passionate about; and I want to know. So, please, if you are reading this, take the time to tell me what you live for. In the meantime, I will tell you about a stunning epiphany that has led me to reevaluate my entire life.
I’m not having fun. I feel guilty about having fun. I always think that if I’m having fun, I should be doing something else. Everything I do is very serious: my resolutions, my Community Center, my teaching, my parenting, my few friendships, my relationship with family, my financial life, my house hunting, my writing, and so on. I do stupid things designed to make me feel terrible, such as taking multiple ‘selfies’ and submitting them to web sites to see how old people think I am. I’m embarrassed by this, I truly am, but I’m in a confessional mode. I turned 50, you see, and decided that my youth was officially over, my time on Earth is limited, and I need to accomplish all my goals RIGHT NOW. In order to accomplish all my goals—one of which is to help all of my hundreds of students find success and happiness—I need to be very serious and control everything and everybody so that my life is predictable and not scary.
But life is scary. Or perhaps I’ve made it that way. Truth be told, I don’t understand exactly why I’m here or what I’m supposed to do with myself. My grim determination to save everybody and change the world before my 51st birthday has sucked all the joy out of my existence. I count down days and weeks like I’m in prison. My fear that 50 is the ending of something has created such panic—it’s like someone told me that my 25 year old self is dead, and I have to mourn her and move on. The problem is, I feel closer to 25 now than I did ten years ago. Time is confusing. Everybody tells you that you’re old and time is dragging you towards death, but time seems to move in circles. You double back and repeat certain emotions that you remember from decades ago. I have more in common with 25 year old Kirsten than any other age I’ve ever been. I’m not sure why this is so; perhaps it’s because I don’t have child care responsibilities anymore, or some other reason I have yet to figure out.
The epiphany also has to do with this weird need to ‘act my age,’ and I have no idea how to do that. I don’t know what it means to be 50, because I’ve never done it before. I know how to be in my 20s, 30s and 40s, but 50 is new territory, and I think I made the mistake of thinking that I was supposed to give up fun in favor of acting like a mature adult, but I don’t know what mature adults do. I would like to go to a club and have a drink and dance, but then I think that younger people will scorn me for my age and my inappropriate behavior. I believe that people my age need to own a home, watch certain television shows, be mentors, be teachers, be wise, lead by example, not make mistakes, dress appropriately, wear different makeup, avoid black outfits, stop global warming, be more politically active, find God (now), and I don’t know, a thousand other things. I read all these articles about 50 year olds, and most of them just depress me.
I’m supposed to lead others because I’m old and wise, but I feel young and ignorant. I’m supposed to be a mentor, but I don’t even know what I want to do when I grow up. I’m supposed to accept my ‘changing face,’ but it makes me want to cry to see these physical changes in me that make me look older than I feel. I’m supposed to have something fascinating to write for my readers, but I need them to write something fascinating for me. I am lost at this age, because everything I think I’m supposed to do doesn’t make sense for me. I don’t feel that I have an age at all, just an accumulation of experiences that puts me into a context, and maybe I’ve had more experiences than my 24 year old students, but I don’t feel much different from them. I just look different, and everyone seems to think that’s important. It’s not. It isn’t important, and I don’t know how to wrap my head around the fact that nothing anyone is hammering into my head about 50 is remotely understandable.
Over and over again, family and culture have expected me to grow up, be responsible, get a career, raise a family, work, work, work, be useful, be productive, own things, look mature, not act like a child or a teenager, fit in, not be weird, not be quirky, not rock the boat, not say certain things, not piss people off and on and on. Oh shit, I’m a teenager!! That’s what this all sounds like! The endless selfies, the insecurities, the lack of a stable identity, the locked-down rebellion, the not fitting in thing . . . I’m afraid 50 and 18 are about the same experience, in the end.
Dear Readers: WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO ABOUT THIS???? CAN YOU PLEASE OFFER ME SOME HELP HERE? Because, honestly, I’m not wise. I don’t have the answers. I don’t have answers for myself, and I certainly don’t have them for anyone else. Can someone offer some kind words, or some insightful inspiration? I’ve been pretending for a long time that I’m a brilliant and mature woman, but I’m not. The gig is up.
–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW