I have a secret to share about turning 50. A secret I learned when I turned 50 a few months ago.
The secret is...it's not so bad.
The way to turn 50 is to embrace it. Tell everyone you know and just enjoy it. Let your friends and family celebrate you for a little while -- how often does something this big, this momentous (a half a century!) happen to you? Look around you and see what you have -- don't think about what's missing. Don't dwell on the things that didn't happen, the opportunities missed, the loved ones gone, the friends at a distance. Forget the money that you've lost or the journey not taken. Just be glad to have this moment -- turning 50.
Also, forget about that whole "50 is the new 40" thing. Fifty is not the new 40. Fifty is 50. Fifty is middle age, with all that implies -- whether your body is hard or soft, your face smooth or wrinkled, if you look older than you are or younger than you are -- well, that's 50.
I'm happier at 50 than I was at 40. I feel more sure of myself. I love my work. I have terrific friends and family. Maybe your life is different -- maybe you're not so happy right now, and change is needed, for whatever reason. And yet, if you think about it, really give it some thought, I bet there are plenty of details you wouldn't change about all the years you've spent on this earth.
By the time we're 50, we've (hopefully) learned a lot about ourselves, and a lot about the world. Wisdom becomes part of what we have to share with others, and unlike when we were younger, we know what we're talking about. By the time you turn 50, you've most likely developed a strong set of beliefs and ideas, a moral code that you feel committed to enough to defend no matter what conversation you are having, what situation you may find yourself dealing with.
At 50, truth is easy to spot, deceit even easier. At 50 I can read people pretty well and decide fairly quickly how I feel about them. This is good ... but sometimes not.
At 50 I've grown more cynical and have lost a bit of the sense of wonder that makes being young so exciting. After all, a lot has happened to me in 50 years. Now when something catches me by surprise and makes me stop and think, I'm thrilled to be learning something new, experiencing something I've never experienced before -- for instance, when I saw Paris for the first time last year. It takes bigger things to make me weak in the knees now -- perhaps because I've grown to appreciate the smaller ones in a much more profound way.
At 50 you've most likely lived more years than you have left to live. Maybe you've raised a family. Many of the major accomplishments of your life may have already occurred, though there's always room for more. At 50, you have a lot left to do, but you also have a lot to teach others, even as you are continuing to learn and grow. Sure, there are still surprises and discoveries to be had, but now, more often than not, you have to seek them out -- they won't just appear as often as they did when you were, say, 25.
As you've gotten older, the moments have become so much more important. When we're happy, the quiet of a Sunday evening, lunch with friends, a phone call from your kids to say they miss you -- these become the things we appreciate most of all, because they're what make up a life.
At 50, there's much of life to look back on -- and yet, there's still so much more to do.
Ultimately, turning 50 is good because we're still here. We're still here. And there's more to come.
Sharon Greenthal with Teri Cole and Jodi Okun (also a Huffington Post blogger).
Greenthal with her brother Michael Hodor.
Peter Greenthal, Sharon's husband, who planned it all.
Greenthal's mother Judy and her husband Bill Williamson.
Robert Raykoff and the sushi bar.
The beautiful cake.
Vicki Kogan, Alyson and John Zahn, Julie and Tim Kadletz.
Follow Sharon Greenthal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sharongreenthal