A glimpse of midlife and setting fire to my life…musings at 42

Even a dedicated racial justice professional needs a break from a steady diet of racial injustice. My recent birthday has provided me with the opportunity to step back and reflect on my life. This post is a result of some of my reflections, so if you prefer the race talks, you may want to skip this post. Sadly, the world remains a cruel and unjust place so almost certainly, I will have something to weigh in on soon.

When you run off at 18 and get married, have your first kid at 19 and are on the road to divorce court before you can legally even buy a cold brew, it’s easy to slip down a rabbit hole where you feel you are always playing catch up in life. It becomes far too easy to lose contact with one’s inner guide and instead plug into the world’s vision of who you should be. Sure, you occasionally visit your real self but for the most part your real self becomes a visitor who drops in for special occasions. Even for those who don’t start the adulthood journey with appendages known as kids and spouses, getting to one’s real self can be difficult. In part, we spend 18 years being fed someone else’s view of the world and those views shape us no matter how much we fight against it and then we spend the next 18 years uncovering what’s real for us.

The only thing is that, for most of us, the first decade or so of our adult lives are spent fitting into society’s pre-designed boxes (college, careers, love, family) so even if we are actively rebelling against what we learned in the first 18 years of life, we are often still part of the system we are struggling with. We literally at times have two halves of our lives but the second half of life doesn’t reveal itself until we have a few decades on this dusty rock. In my case, the late 30s signaled an internal shift but one that didn’t ramp up until the past year, when it started to become clear that change was underfoot.

I have openly joked about the physical shifts…those damn hot flashes are no joke and let’s not even talk about that nasty Flo broad and her changes. If I ever meet Aunt Flo face to face, why I’m gonna….

No, the soul searching, the painful picking up and putting down of what works and what doesn’t work. That’s what I’m talking about right now. Digging around in my psychic closet and exploring myself in my 40s now; asking the questions that in my 20s and even my 30s I could not find the courage to even utter except in the occasional moment of clarity. But that clarity would disappear as suddenly as it appeared. The moments of wondering “Is this it?” Ours is a culture where to admit these moments is looked at as a problem to be solved, but not all “problems” require a medical professional, treatment plan or a drug. Sometimes our problems just require the moment that pushes us to our edge and when we gather the bones, heed the whispering of those who have journeyed before us and run to embrace that all knowing wild being who is healthy, free and unencumbered, we find peace.

Yet the quest to the true self that often starts at midlife is not without risk; in fact, the risks are proportional to the potential of joy and peace that is possible. The larger the piece of the joy, the greater potential that you may just end up blowing up your life, just setting it on fire and saying “Fuck it all!” In many ways, it is fitting that I recently celebrated my 42nd birthday by gathering the materials to make the biggest blaze to blow up all that held me back. I am a creature of habit. I am often methodical and rarely do I make decisions without calculating the odds of success in any venture that I undertake. However, my gift to myself in this new year of life is to truly live joyously and take risks. It’s too soon to say and the odds for failure are high but my joy at the moment cannot be contained. I am not afraid to fail anymore and that alone is a gift; I look forward to the other gifts that this journey will unwrap as I go further along.

So welcome to 42, where the woo got stronger and I remembered to laugh again.

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