I turned 50 this week, and it was nothing I expected and everything I needed it to be …all at once.
Fifty is that year where you are taught to believe that there will be this huge party, surrounded by all the people you love at once at least one more time before you die. It’s on the script, right? A commercialized milestone and a rite of passage where we receive a badass cape with “F#ck it I’m 50” emblazoned on the back. An official invitation to finally live life on your terms.
But that didn’t happen, and I’m so grateful for that because something even better did. But I’ll get to that. First, I am going to suck it up and be honest about where I was no matter how far out of my comfort zone it drags me.
2018 was arguably my worst year on the books, which even stumps me considering some of the things I’ve (proudly) overcome. Even when I thought it was finally ending, in its last week my sister had a heart attack that although she survived like a warrior, it paralyzed me to the core from the feeling of almost losing her. There were times throughout the year I fought to even want to be on the planet. That will surprise some and even make them uncomfortable, BUT… I’m not going to edit it because I don’t want to contribute to the silencing of the real struggles people face with depression. And, because it has turned into the best gift ever, just in ugly dark wrapping. So much for being an ambiverted “private dancer”…
I kept it hidden better than the staircase Nancy Drew spent a whole novel trying to find. I was running my own business and was the “bold” girl behind the mask of Be Boldacious, a Facebook/Insta community on a mission to inspire women to toss the BS script that life threw at all of us on who we “should be” and reclaim their right to be boldly and authentically be themselves. No validation required. Every day I posted words I wanted to feel myself, and even when that wasn’t the case, I was fueled by the amazing women that engaged, understood, and were seemingly on the same journey I was.
And then 2018 was finally over, but nothing changed. 2019 came in like a bitchy, groundhog-day kind of brat. Health issues I thought were eradicated popped up and, in the process, reminded me that life can be quite short. But once again, just like three years earlier, it forced me to slow down and crawl into my brain with a magnifying glass.
What did I see? I was exhausted, tired of the struggle and even who I had become. I was even a tad angry, and quite frankly, I wasn’t taking responsibility for much of it. So I sat with the resentment of the very things that I felt created the diorama that had become my life…childhood trauma, fleeing a crappy home situation at 14, people who broke my heart and my trust, loss of too many too soon. Years of struggling with abandonment issues that led to people pleasing to keep peace and stay loved, yet not being able to feel that love from the very people showing it to me. I developed a habit of “turtling” and avoiding, which led to an epic guilt and shame spiral that I was hurting the very people I couldn’t survive losing. It was a fantastic pity party that was equally (if not more) damaging than those events themselves. And yes, I should have called a WAAAAAMBULANCE.
And then, one early April morning: BOOM! Clarity. That shitshow started with ME. My reactions, my thoughts, my habits. My narrative. And oh, what happened then was RICH (bonus if you get the reference).
I gave up the struggle, a little more every day. Suddenly I was looking through a different kind of lens at myself and everything around me. I started having moments of brilliant clarity, personally and professionally. I had moments of joy I felt so deeply that I questioned their authenticity. At first. And then I realized that after all my fifty years, I had FINALLY crossed over from surviving to thriving.
So, on the day I turned fifty, I flipped the script. I didn’t wait for people to validate my importance to them or to celebrate me, I celebrated THEM either directly or in my heart. I felt so much love and gratitude. I felt JOY. Giddy joy! I finally got it: If I didn’t love and accept myself and everything that made me who I am and want to be, I would never be able to feel the love and joy that was right in front of me. So I put on my badass fire red cape, my sash and sparkling “50” tiara (thank you friend) and I said something out loud that will anchor the last 15 years of my career, the life I’m grateful for, and the legacy I intend to leave when I’m gone:
“I want to see a world where girls enter adulthood with confidence and resilience instead of struggling through life to earn it”
Here’s what I want you to know and seek for yourself: I may have struggled, but I no longer look back with resentment. I see the beautiful moments that got shadowed because I shone light on the pain. I feel more focused, more fulfilled, and more love for and from every person and every day than I have in 50 years. It shouldn’t require a party. It shouldn’t be a badge you earn. And it shouldn’t come to you from other people, a milestone event, or even a social media post. It starts with YOU – and I wish every single one of you reading this the inspiration to make it happen.
When you do, submit your story to the brilliant person behind this blog. She is my friend, my example, and I am honored to have written the inaugural post for “Light my Fire”!
Tamara is a corporate refugee and giddy entrepreneur known to be a cross between Brene’ Brown, Olivia Pope, and “TinAmy FeyPoehler” but deep down actually relates more to most Melissa McCarthy characters. She is obsessed with NFL football, competitive lawn sports, and would likely become an agoraphobic mute if she ever lost her hearing (because music gives her life). Her biggest champion and grounding wire is her husband Jim, who she loves going home to in Braintree where they met “15 years or so” ago in high school. To learn more, visit www.tamaragardner.com