I never really imagined what it would feel like to be fifty years old. Fifty years seemed like an unimaginably long time whenever I chose to contemplate it. I remember at about eighteen, I calculated what year I would turn fifty, and was completely flabbergasted when I tried to envision the idea of the year 2009! A full nine years after the new century, an unheard of amount of time, it seemed. It was still the mid 1970’s, and it seemed, literally, half a lifetime away.
Of course, 2009 arrived, right on schedule, and I am curious to look backward on the intervening years, as well a forward to the next milestone. In the almost thirty years between 1977 and 2009, I have had several careers, one long-standing marriage, many homes, though only two that I have owned, and three wonderful dogs that accompanied me on my life journey. I have traveled to Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada and Europe. I have owned a sports car, learned to downhill and cross-country ski, run a 10k footrace, skippered a 40’ sailboat, hiked the Sierra crest and climbed Half Dome. I have seen many of the regions of our country that were largely the subject of geography books, including Los Alamos, New Mexico. I have visited New York City, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and many other metropolitan centers. I have learned a new language well enough to be mistaken for a local, ridden Italian trains, camped on deserted islands and beaches in Baja, and seen alligators in the Everglades. I graduated from a traditional university and then pursued the culinary arts, both here and in Europe.
I have yet to skydive, visit the Great Barrier Reef, cruise the South Pacific, round the tip of either Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope or transit the Panama Canal. I have never seen the Holy Land, or traveled in Africa or Asia. Almost all of these things could have a “yet” attached to them, as I am far from finished pursuing adventure. I consider myself middle aged, so it seems I should aim to live to see one hundred.
The world I was born into has changed in ways I could have never imagined. Being an American in the period between the 1960’s and now has allowed me to observe and be a part of changes that were more rapid and far reaching than previous generations could have envisioned. 2009 brings a time of pivotal change to our nation and our world. I have read the opinions of those who call this time an “inflection point” on which our entire world will change direction. It is an exciting time to be alive and at the peak of my existence. Today, I must dig deep to find the faith and optimism that we, as a nation and a world, will overcome the economic, environmental and social challenges that face us.
The best way I can deal with the enormity of change is to keep my focus on what is in front of me today; my birthday, my garden, the change of seasons, my puppy, my relationship with my husband, family and friends. It has always been my inclination to have big ideas, and in this time of great uncertainty, it is comforting to have learned how to rein in my hopes and dreams for the world, and instead, embrace gratitude for the abundant life I enjoy today.