Yes, you always will be a girl—or at least part of you will. Fifty feels decidedly ungirlish, I know, but believe me when I tell you this: fifty truly is nifty. Such a great age! The hard work of growing up, navigating relationships, figuring out what it means to be married, to mother children, to be a daughter-who-is-also-an-adult, to manage work and home—that’s all behind you now. Yes, you’ll keep discovering new ways to do all of the above, but the steepest learning curve is behind you. Honest.
And ahead of you? Oh, my! So many rich and wonderful things, so many interesting choices, and so much to give. All those years you’ve been living? There are people who need to hear about what you’ve learned. And there are so many creative ways for you to use what you’ve learned in new ways. There’s a lot left to do—even better, there’s so much still to be.
Turning fifty formally introduces the second half of life, that rich season of growing an inner life as well as an outer one. Please don’t waste a minute of it. Keep reading about contemplative practices, carve out time for daylong retreats, continue to work with a spiritual director. All that personal work you began in your 40s will continue to be formational and powerful, especially as you step out into the next big phase of your professional life. You don’t know it yet, but in two years, you’ll make the biggest move of the last thirty, moving in every way from all that is known and familiar, geographically and personally. And you’ll do it so that you can take a new job. Yes, you.
Here’s what you’ll discover: everything you’ve done up until now—caring for small children, juggling commitments, carving out time for yourself, learning how to let your spouse and friends help you understand yourself, the growing appreciation for how God has wired you—all of that will make you the best possible employee, the best possible you for whatever comes next.
And there’s plenty coming. You’re not done learning, not by a long shot. You’ll learn to navigate a new work environment, you’ll discover the good and the challenging parts of being an older member of the workforce, and you’ll find that your life has prepared you well for even the trickiest parts.
Do you remember creating newsletters for your daughter’s school orchestra, for the women’s group at church? All of that—the writing, the design layout, the technical know-how required to produce a lovely and helpful finished product? Not one minute of that will be lost—that particular skill set will prove helpful more times than you can count.
Do you remember beginning that young mother’s group? Meeting with troubled friends seeking advice? Planning and presenting programs and social events in family, school and church settings? Juggling seminary studies with floral arranging gigs and family commitments? Building relationships with all kinds of different people in all kinds of different life stages? Every bit of that will make it possible for you to take that job and do it well. Nothing will be wasted.
I will strongly advise you to make room for grace as you make that move, however. Lots and lots of grace. Begin with yourself, and then offer it to all those younger souls who will sometimes speak in condescending tones as they try to “educate” you about technology or youth culture. Just smile and say “thank you,” no defensiveness, no apology. Believe this: you know what you need to know. And what you don’t know, you’ll learn.
One thing I will advise you to do from this side of the calendar: move more. Your job requires a lot of desk-sitting and car-sitting. Get in the habit of getting up from your desk—just ten minutes for every ninety you sit. Take a walk around your office, or head outdoors and breathe some fresh air. Also? Please begin a daily exercise routine now. A thirty-minute walk every day when you’re in your 50s will earn the undying gratitude of your 70-year-old joints.
Brace yourself for the harder parts of being a “senior citizen” employee in a culture obsessed with youth and beauty. Yes, you occupy a position of rich privilege. You’re not a member of a minority group, you’re not struggling to find food for your family, you’re well educated, financially secure and blessed with a rich family circle. Give thanks for what you have, every day.
But realize that you are also female, fifty, overweight, a perfectionist, and painfully aware of all the ways in which you are both too much and not enough. You will encounter some pushback here and there. You will worry that your age is a detriment, that your lack of technical expertise will hinder both you and the team you work with. Please try to let that worry go. Yes, you will have your weak areas. Embrace them for the teachers they are. The parts of yourself for which you think you need to apologize are the very parts through which the Spirit of God will work in ways you cannot now imagine.
Far from being a detriment, your age and life experience will add value to everything you do. Congregants will find it easy to confide in you, the office staff will appreciate your wisdom more than they will regret your more limited tech skills. Carry your years with gratitude.
If I could offer you one word of encouragement, it would be this one: trust yourself. Your life has taught you what you need to know, even when you feel flummoxed. Take a deep breath, sit in a calm space, center yourself in the redemption that is yours because of Jesus. Then go, and do, and be all that you’re meant to go and do and be. Because that is why you’re still here, dear girl. That’s why you are still here.
With love and hope,
A Letter to My Younger Self
One of God's great gifts to us is wisdom from those who have walked the road before us. Our elders offer deep insights into navigating the seasons of life, and when we take time to listen, they offer valuable strategies for leading from the soul. One day, with the Lord's blessing, we will all find ourselves entering a season of retirement, perhaps complete with grand-parenting, and soaking up years of grace.
How will we arrive at those years, and how can we plan now to live well in that season of life? We've asked a few friends to help us think forward in this series, A Letter to My Younger Self.