One of my dear friends turned fifty this week. We celebrated this significant milestone by spending a beautiful afternoon together at the local sauna, rotating between the infrared heat, eucalyptus-infused steam room, and cold plunge pool. We finished with a quiet dinner at our favourite sushi restaurant. The experience offered us many hours to talk and reflect about this momentous time of our lives and what it means to us.
Up until this point, I have felt like there is nothing ahead but wide open space and possibilities. It always seemed like there was an abundance of time: time to dream, time to plan, time to realize ambitions. I still have two and a half years until I hit fifty, but it is approaching fast; and when you reach half a century of life, it causes you to pause, take a breath, and reflect upon your journey to date.
I previously shared about being a member of the ‘sandwich generation‘, with the challenges of raising a young child, and caring for aging parents. It is a tricky place to be. In recent weeks, my mother’s health took a turn for the worse, and my uncle passed away. There have been a lot of deep and painful emotions. It has been a difficult time: watching the people I love struggle, fade away and let go. It is both frightening and humbling to witness the ‘adults’ in my life reduced to such a vulnerable state. Fragile. Afraid. Helpless.
This experience has reminded me of the finite nature of existence. Our time here is truly fleeting. When we are young, we imagine there will be endless opportunities in the ‘future’ to complete our bucket list, and live out our dreams. The reality is we only have a handful of good decades to do this work, in good health, if we are truly lucky. Every moment is precious. Every year is a gift. No phase of our lives should be lived on auto-pilot. This is easy enough said, and much harder to do, especially when you are in the thick of it.
During our time at the sauna, we met a couple visiting Victoria for the weekend. In their early fifties, they recently quit their jobs, sold their house in North Vancouver, and moved to the Comox Valley. They do not know anyone in their new community. They just felt the calling to take action and simplify their lives. My next door neighbours share a similar story. They packed up their family and moved from Ontario to British Columbia during the height of the pandemic: seeking a life that better aligns with their values.
My friend and I discussed the limitations that we put upon our lives in following the path of least resistance: doing what is expected of us and pursuing society’s definition of ‘success.’ Go to school. Secure a job. Partner up. Get married. Buy a house. Have children. Settle in. Do not take risks. Stay safe and small. In reality, life is pretty fluid. There is no ‘right’ path. There are multitudes.
Each of our children graduates high school in the next four years. As we are both single, unattached women, possibilities abound. Nothing needs to remain static. It presents an opportunity to implement change and pursue new options.
In the meantime, I am working my way through my bucket list. I have signed up for a salsa class and I am planning to ski more next year. I am writing a few pages of my book every day and practicing French to improve my fluency. I am ensuring that I spend quality time with friends and family. I am paying attention to my diet and exercising more to ensure I age well. I am organizing trips with my daughter for the next few years: both close to home and further afield. I am dreaming and putting my dreams into action. One baby step at a time.