I’m rapidly approaching 50 and have been reflecting on my life so far:
- Phase 1 – childhood, setting the scene. A time of learning, exploring, freedom and fun. Looking back (with the support of my counsellor), I can now see that it was the time when my psychological map was drawn, when I learnt to be ‘me’ – good and bad.
- Phase 2 – teens to late 20s. A time of experimentation and forging relationships – lots of them – friendships, lovers, marriage and becoming a mother. In the process, I lost sight of ‘me’ – I gave of myself freely and kept little in reserve.
- Phase 3 – 30 to mid-40s. A time of responsibility and relentless hard work. I progressed rapidly in my career. I felt compelled to provide the best life I could for me and my son, although, on reflection, I wish I’d spent more time with him and earned less money. I squeezed in a lot of fun too. I lived life at a hundred miles an hour and came out of Phase 3 exhausted and disillusioned.
Now, as I’m about to reach the glorious age of 50, I’m embarking on Phase 4. And making this fourth phase a reality means embracing significant change.
There are the physical changes, of course. The menopause is hardly a barrel of laughs – night sweats, sore boobs, headaches, mood swings, erratic periods and cysts in unthinkable places! I guess I’ll have to grin and bear those as part of my biological journey, although I wouldn’t say no to medical intervention if they became too bad.
I’m actually more focused on the psychological changes. What’s driven me to want to make major life changes? I have a lovely home and, for many years, had a full-on corporate career I enjoyed and that paid well. Why do I want to throw my life up in the air and make a bid for freedom in middle age? Why have I halved my salary in less than three years, retrained as a counsellor and putting my house on the market to downsize?
Over recent years, I’ve become more and more disillusioned with our capitalist and materialistic society’s unwritten rules: get a good education, get (and keep) a secure job, get a mortgage (and stretch yourself to the limit), acquire possessions and renew them frequently, put on a good show for others, save as much as you can for old age.
I’ve re-evaluated what’s important to me, and it’s none of those things. What’s important is to love and nurture, to give back, to have enough time and money to learn, explore, spend time with friends and family, walk my dog, bake, read, and indulge in the luxury of just being.
No doubt I’m more than halfway there on life’s journey. I reckon I’ve got 20 good years left in me – 25 at a push. I want to make those years count. I want them to be about people, not stuff, about freedom and fun, not responsibility and debt.
Above all, I want to genuinely enjoy Phase 4. When I get to Phase 5, when my energy is depleted and time is running out, I want to look back and smile to myself when I think of the memories I’ve made, the people I’ve loved, the experiences we’ve shared.
Life is for living and giving, not sacrificing yourself for a faceless corporation and acquiring stuff. Well it is for me anyway.