On July 19, 2015 I had the honor of turning 50 years old. For an entire year I had planned a week to remember on Martha’s Vineyard. I sent out invitations to several of my closest girlfriends, and I handed the plans over to my then 21-year-old daughter. Home rental? Check! R.S.V.Ps? Check! Plane ticket? Check! It was time to let the good times roll. Except for one thing—I had rules. Come, and enjoy, but don’t forget, it’s my birthday. This special day belongs to me.
As the sun rose on my birthday, nine ladies woke up to the aroma of fresh ground coffee. For lunch at a beautiful restaurant, I asked everyone to wear the color orange and everyone obliged. Everything was going smoothly—until someone tried to alter my plan. It was my day, remember? And I had rules. My rules.
I had told my friends before their departure to bring a book as a gift in order to bless someone else. At the restaurant, I handed out orange gift bags, orange tissue paper, and blank gift cards for each lady in my party to pen these words:
Joyful morning to you! Today is Gail’s 50th birthday. She asked that we purchase a gift to bless someone. Today I choose you. I simply wanted to spread some joy.
I had crossed over the threshold toward freedom, having been burdened for so many years with thoughts of what people would think of me if I pushed back.
We were to randomly give a gift to someone we met throughout the day. However, the ladies were unsure about doing such a thing. I did not care. For the first time ever I said out loud, “I don’t care what you think. This is what we are going to do.” Wow! That felt great!
The room became silent. My 60-year-old friend said with a sassy voice, “Gail, welcome! You are now a card-carrying member of the I Don’t Care Club.” That was it. I had crossed over the threshold toward freedom, having been burdened for so many years with thoughts of what people would think of me if I pushed back or questioned their thoughts, recommendations, and their wants, regardless of what I desired. I had arrived. I have to admit I was somewhat angry that this had not occurred before my 50th birthday. Life would have been much more refreshing without the extra load. Why didn’t someone tell me life at 50 is the life worth living?
The New Gail
To make the difference clear, let me bring you into my world. For 49 years I accepted invitations; some of these events I despised attending. For 49 years I ignored many of my hopes and dreams and took a long detour in my life. Yes, I have had a good life, but why settle for good now that I have the opportunity to go for great? I have begun to do much of what I have waited to do all my life.
I have to admit I was somewhat angry that this had not occurred before my 50th birthday.
For 49 years I made sure I dressed in a certain way so I would not be mistaken for anything other than a “Christian” lady. Today I wear jeans and yoga pants just for the heck of it, waiting for someone to tell me to wear something different. For 49 years I wore a bra that was painstakingly uncomfortable to ensure everything was held in its place. Now I wear what suits me. For 49 years I minded my manners. I was humble, kind, and cool, and I was labeled sweet and gentle, although on the inside I was hoping for something different.
For 49 years I minded my manners. I was humble, kind, and cool, and I was labeled sweet and gentle
I will no longer allow anyone to make me feel guilty. I am now numb to the habit of second-guessing myself and wondering if what I have said has offended someone. I was already an authentic, bold, and confident woman before my birthday. Couple that with turning 50, and I almost scare myself.
Being true to ourselves is one of the most difficult endeavors, especially since we all are constantly being prodded to be less authentic, less ourselves, and more like others so we can be easily labeled, whether intentionally and unconsciously. Yet once we have grown sufficiently and gained a deeper understanding of ourselves, we are able to embrace ourselves more fully and appreciate the uniqueness God has given each of us. When that happens, it becomes increasingly more difficult to give up or compromise our true selves. We can feel, as I did, that we are like a little girl riding the Ferris wheel for the first time ever and yelling out, “WEEEEEEEEE!”
What Took So Long?
Why is it that most of us do not discover this revelation until we have crossed the threshold of age 50? Even though it seemed like I had an immediate transformation, I believe my confidence was there all along, but I had simply neglected it for years. Even now questions such as, “Am I being too blunt?” and “Should I care?” cross my mind at times. Yet, my answer is usually, “No.”
If you’re wondering if I am being harsh, honestly, I don’t care. I paid my dues. And perhaps some of you reading this are wondering if I have gone off of my rocker. Maybe! But guess what? I don’t care! Never again will I care about what others think of me. And that’s the way I like it.