Reflections on a Half Century

Some time ago, I read about a father who started collecting bits and bobs (photos, articles, mementos, etc.) during the course of a year and put them all in an envelope for his daughter to open at a later date. On the eve of her birthday, he would write her a letter, seal it in with the envelope, and write the year on the outside of the envelope. He started this the year she was born, doing this for eighteen years and presenting all eighteen “time capsule” envelopes to his beloved daughter on her eighteenth birthday. This story inspired me so much that I decided to do something similar for myself–but on a much larger time scale.

On my thirtieth birthday, I bought the best bottle of scotch I could afford (which wasn’t very fancy or expensive) and hand wrote a letter to my future forty-year-old self. I painted a broad brushstroke picture versus going into minutia (a good idea). When I look back at that letter now, I can see the 20s optimism arriving at thirty like I’ve won the Oscars oozing through the loopy handwriting. I have to remind myself that, although I was smarter than the average bear then, I was still pretty stupid.

On my fortieth birthday, I bought a much better (and much more expensive) bottle of scotch and wrote my future fifty-year-old self a letter to keep the tradition going (typed this time, as my handwriting was starting to resemble a doctor’s). It was interesting to see what my goals were at thirty versus forty–how many of them I had achieved, how many of them didn’t matter anymore, and how I still sucked at romantic relationships–but my hunger for significance as well as emotional and mental growth was still there. I wanted to know more about what made me tick and why, but it was quite clear that I was still casting about for what would make my life “significant.”

My fiftieth birthday passed a few months ago. The huge blowout party that was supposed to happen was cancelled by COVID. The world has been living with a pandemic for the last eighteen-plus months, and life is anything but normal. I celebrated quietly with my husband, two close friends, and my bottle of scotch.

Half a century isn’t so bad, though. I look in the mirror and see a few things: one is my mother looking back at me. Perimenopause has not been kind to me. (I now understand all those menopause jokes intimately and both laugh and cry at them.) I also see a tired but defiant artist looking back at me: purple, spiky hair, no makeup, silly, sarcastic purple tee-shirt. I see fierceness in those eyes: a social justice warrior, a staunch feminist, and unapologetic humanist staring back at me. I see passion in my eyes. My business is thriving, and I get to make art and magic every single day. (Bonus – I figured out how to keep Christmas alive year round! See December blog coming soon.) However, I also see sadness in my eyes. I hurt for everyone who suffers. Being an empath sucks sometimes, and it’s definitely a boundary with which I still struggle.

More than anything, I see growth. I see all the wounds, scars, mistakes, shames, and failures. They make a patchwork quilt that would make any 1920s seamstress who specialized in crazy quilts envious. I also see my successes and triumphs–both large and small. They make up a suit of armor that is battered and burnished. You can see some of the botched repair jobs here and there, but it’s still in one piece, and it still stands proud. I’m not the same woman I was at thirty or at forty. I don’t struggle with my self-esteem anymore. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I forge my own path, and the naysayers be damned. I’m finally a formidable force in my own right (one of my fortieth birthday goals achieved).

Additionally, the MOST important goal of all has finally been achieved, and that is I found what makes my life significant. As alluded to in the previous paragraph, I created a business that brings joy and magic into people’s lives. I created a safe space for me to make art and get paid for it. Through my work, I get to touch thousands of lives. In essence, I get to love the world. I receive evidence of this through all the pictures my clients send back to me of them wearing my art. The smiles are a million watts, and the elation is evident even from a random collection of colorful pixels.

So, what’s next? One goal that stands out from my fortieth letter that I think I’m going to take forward is “an acute appreciation for all the good things in life.” During this pandemic, I’ve discovered what is and isn’t a “good thing” . . . an important thing. It definitely ISN’T material things. It’s the sound of a live band playing. It’s the feel of your best friend’s hug. It’s the smile on a client’s face. (Those have been hard to see through the masks!) It’s the wind whipping your hair as you drive with the top down or walk on the beach. It’s the sun warming your face. It’s the people in your life who make it special. It’s how you make them feel loved. It’s all the collective experiences of being ALIVE.

So, for my sister in time at age sixty, my wish is that you LIVE each day unapologetically. Create each moment with significance. Love with everything you have, and help all with whom you cross paths in some way, even if it’s merely to smile. Realize that each new day you are given is a chance to make a difference . . . a chance to make magic . . . a chance to change the world. Even if it’s just a small bit of magic, it could be the world to someone. You just never know.

Thank you, dear reader, for coming on this journey with me! I wish you magic every day!

Until next time,