In a few days, I’ll turn 52, and I’ll be honest, other than the fact that when I open my camera app to take a photo and it’s pointing at me so I see my neck and face from a very frightening, unflattering angle (which never fails to shock me into reality and make me assume something is wrong with my phone or that I’ve most certainly left a bad filter open), I’m not too broken up about it.
This is my second birthday during this pandemic and the second one I’m spending quarantined in my house, still too nervous to eat at a restaurant or be around others who may not have taken this virus as seriously as my family has, so it would be entirely expected that I’d be overjoyed to leave 51 behind.
But here’s the thing: I’ve enjoyed 51 tremendously. I’ve felt more like myself and grown more in the past 12 months than I have in years. In fact, I’ve enjoyed it so much it’s just begging me to come out and write a letter to 52. And if you’ve been around this blog long enough, you know I’m never one to resist a good letter.
Especially on birthdays.
I see you’re on your way to take my place, but I’ve gotta say, I’m not quite ready to leave. I’ve really enjoyed it here. Sure, my entrance wasn’t at all what I was told it would be, which was a little disappointing. I mean I was promised a day in the Florida Keys on the beach, but what I got instead was 35 degrees in Minnesota with some dry crock-pot chicken and the onset of an uncertain but certainly terrifying pandemic. However, seeing the whole family safely together around the table after the frantic few days leading up to it was — dare I say? — even better.
Despite what you might think, my time here wasn’t dull. I both learned and was taught some valuable lessons. Before 50 left she told me about the importance of setting boundaries, and while she was still a little shaky on being good at it — she was about 30 years late to that party, after all — she passed along a lot of good information that I’ve tried hard to keep up with. And wouldn’t you know it? 50 was right. By working hard continuously to free myself of the weight of guilt and responsibility for others’ reactions and feelings in response to things I felt were right for me was freeing, and a game-changer for my mental health. I felt better about a lot of aspects of my life than I ever have before! Thanks, 50! You were right, it’s never too late!
Being here wasn’t all work, though. I had some serious downtime. Sure, we were quarantined in some heavy and uncertain months, but I was able to balance staying safe and more grateful than ever with some activities that fed my very soul. Correct me if I’m wrong, 52, but while 35-50 thrived being outdoors, I don’t think one of them appreciated the green and the fresh air as much as I did. From long walks and bike rides to morning kayak rides that lasted for hours to floating on the lake on my back and watching the puffy white clouds to jumping off the boat or dock in glee, there was something about spring and summer that just hit differently this year. So my advice to you, 52, is to not take one leaf, one ripple in the water, one windy day you complain about even though the sun is shining and you are healthy and alive, for granted. Get out and live it. Think you can do that?
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons I’m dragging my feet out the door, though, is because I simply don’t want to leave. We started something pretty spontaneous and amazing in the fall that I really want to ride out! If I went back and told 45, 48, or hell, even 50 about the wild fun and surprising success of the podcast that was started so spontaneously — and especially of the friendships it deepened — they’d be like “the f*ck you say??” Honestly, their heads would explode. The time, work, commitment, and daily, deep fulfillment of the past six months has been wildly fun and so much more than gratifying. Instead of feeling sad to pass it on, I guess should feel lucky I got to be part of it, right?
So 52, my message to you is simple: Keep it up. Keep working every day to be grateful, to respect and honor yourself, to find beauty in the things around you, to work hard every day to engage the appreciative and supportive community you and your friends have built, to keep striving to be better, and most importantly, to keep finding joy in all of it!
And as for those neck wrinkles? We just slather them with cream twice a day and tell ourselves they’ll disappear. So far, 40 on up has believed it.