So, I recently turned 50. In the months leading up to my birthday, my emotions have been all over the place but mostly positive. I may have anxiety about other things but turning 50 was not one of them. I don’t disparage turning 50 nor do I wish to turn back time. I know that the fact that I’m aging is a privilege that isn’t afforded to everyone, so I feel that it’s a duty to make the most of every single day.
Now that I’ve reached my 50th year of life, I realize that I have no idea what being 50 is supposed to look like. The main reason why I come up blank is that my 50 is vastly different from what my parents 50 was like, or even what my grandparents’ 50 was like.
I’ve been married once but have no children. Black woman invites challenges. Although the media often use the terms childfree and childless interchangeably, I make the distinction between them as I don’t feel they are the same thing. The term childless implies that those who do not have children would like to have them. However, the term childfree means that one does not want to have children at all. I wanted very much to have children, but God chose not to put that in the cards for me.
As my reproductive years end, I often cry and feel regret. It gets to me a lot. When you are a younger childless woman, you are regarded as selfish. If you are Black, you have to fight stereotypes, assumptions, and the notion that something is surely wrong with you.
As it is, my life is relatively full. I have a 9-5 job, but I also have a full-time writing career. I hope things get easier for those in the generation behind me, in that women will be valued for more than what’s between their legs. That we will be regarded as more than just incubators or nurturers. That we will be fully valued for our intellect and our creativity. At least that’s the legacy I want to leave.
There are interesting things about aging that I am not too certain about. Take menopause. Society and the media paint it as a horrible experience. I hear women talk about the night sweats, hot flashes and the internal furnace having a mind of its own. I have to say that it worries me.
I’ve already started to see and feel physical changes, and they are not appreciated. I get a lot more aches and pains now. And after spending most of my life at a certain weight, it started creeping up a few years ago. I still haven’t figured out how to lose the extra 15 or 20 pounds I gained, even though I often exercise and eat the same way I’ve done for years.
I remember a time when I didn’t know how to establish boundaries. When I let my emotions lead and went out of my way to make others more comfortable in my presence. Although I am better at asserting boundaries and standing up for myself, there are times when I still slip into deferential mode.
Reaching the age of 50 for me is resilient, while at the same time I fear for the generations that will come after me. I look at my two nieces and I wonder if they will be marching for their basic rights when their 50?
I won’t wax about how grateful I am and how much wisdom I’ve gained. For one thing, I don’t believe that age necessarily denotes wisdom. I’ve come across people younger than me that are far wiser than me. And I can do without the intersections of being Black and female where society wants to automatically put me in a narrow box.
My light is too bright to surround myself in such darkness. I am grateful for my family and friends. I have gained a lot of wisdom. But those things are sometimes muted by the oppression I still deal with on a daily basis. The thing that stands out for me upon reaching 50 is that I have only just begun to live. And that is beautiful.