03/27/2014 12:50 pm ET Updated May 27, 2014

How a High Note Kicked Me into Midlife


Midlife caught me by surprise. Born the youngest of six at the tail end of the baby boom, I launched a career, married and had two children, but still felt like a kid inside. Facing 50, midlife crept in when I entered the oldies radio demographic. (Known as "classic rock" -- I suspect the genre title change was made by boomer radio execs who held fast to Roger Daltrey's plea "I hope I die before I get old.") There was one memorable day when I knew midlife had truly begun.

The day started with a check-up. Discussing a few minor ailments, my doctor's advice was simple: more exercise, and more bran. My optician had already predicted I'd need bifocals soon. Exercise, bran and bifocals, all prescribed by doctors too young for classic rock. Welcome to middle age.

Unfazed by these diagnoses, I attended "Mamma Mia," a perennial favorite, that evening. Based on the music of ABBA, "Mamma Mia" features Sophia, a young woman searching for her biological father in the days leading up to her wedding. Sophia sets the stage with the show's opening number, "I Have a Dream." At another (read: younger) time in my life, Sophia's earnestness might have brought tears to my eyes. At almost 50, I grew weary of her whining.

Her mother, Donna, spoke to me instead. A single parent, Donna wonders where life will lead as her only daughter marries. Her glory days behind her, Donna confronts the second half of life. To what tasks will she direct her energies, and with whom will she spend her days?

Following the curtain call, Donna and the cast reprised "Dancing Queen," taking me back to a memory of when I was "young and sweet/only 17." I had a mad crush on a guy from work, and we went dancing after closing The Gap. The disco's lighted floor, chaser lights and mirror ball were straight from the iconic nightspot in Saturday Night Fever. My Sophia-heart soared with the joy of a teenager who was "having the time of your life."

Back at the theater, Donna belted out the song and did a high kick to rival any nubile cheerleader. She nailed the notes and the move, to the audience's astonishment and my complete delight. Jolted from my reminiscing, the tears came. My heart was full, not with the pain of my lost youth, but with hope for the future. Sophia embodied my disco days, but it was Donna's dancing queen who told me I could still give life a good kick in the pants.

Savvy marketers are capitalizing on the power of music by featuring classic rock in advertising campaigns. Great songs pitch everything from cars to floor care products, computers to fast food. When I see the ads, I hit the remote. I want to protect those first precious memories and nurture the ideas the music inspires today. Maybe that's why I listen to oldies stations: sometimes, the music takes me back, and sometimes it reinvents me.

"Midlife is the old age of youth and the youth of old age" the proverb goes. With my music, I reflect back on my life with wisdom, and look forward to the future, knowing life is filled with possibilities. Only now, I may need bifocals to see them!