I once wrote a little essay to a woman turning 30. Aptly enough, it was entitled: 30 Things to Learn from a Woman over 50. It was filled with a lot of good lessons about life and forgiveness and community – and the value of a good pair of cowboy boots in one’s wardrobe. But as I move closer to the end of one decade and the beginning of yet uncharted territory, I realize the essay, with it’s poetically placed bullet points, was missing one thing. A most valuable thing.
The 30s are a flash, a moment, a stretch of patchwork asphalt on a highway that cuts through horizon after horizon.
They will not last. And there is something better.
For most of us, the 20s were about adulthood. We learned to pay our own bills and set alarm clocks that jarred us into the reality of responsibility. For some of us, the 20s found us reciting vows and rocking babies. For others, the 20s found us picking up pieces of dreams shattered far too quickly. We felt the pressure of life-long decisions made by brains that were still homesick for spring breaks. We saw every break in the destiny handed to us by the generations that had come before – and we believed we had the mortar to repair them all. We still believed we were invincible.
We awaken in the 30s – a jarring awakening to the “tick-tick-tick” of the second hands on a clock. We feel the pressure to increase speed as we stumble and rise and stumble again. But we rise. We continue to rise. And we hear the voice whisper, “run again,” as the 30s drum their fingers on the counter and look at us with slight contempt. They are full of expectations, and we run to keep up. We run to success. We run to make a name. We run to be the best, because we believe there is a best. There must be a best. There has to be a best.
The 40s await us. They greet us with a grace we’ve not yet encountered. Like the first breeze of spring on cheeks glistening with tears, the 40s invite us to sit and rest because it knows we arrive weary. We are given a glass of cool water and asked to share our day. And there have been so many days by then. We have surely tasted loss. We have surely tasted pain. We have surely been afraid. And yet we are here. Our vision changes in the 40s, and though those who follow in our steps may say it’s not as clear, we discover a softness tucked away in the world where there is no best to be achieved. Yes, grace makes her appearance in the 40s. She holds our hand as we extend it to others. She stands by us as we look in the mirror. She says to us, “There is beauty to be found here.”
The 50s will quietly find their way into tender places in our soul – and give us new ways to breathe and live. We’ll turn a corner to see that the tick-tick-tick is not a clock at all, but rather a metronome, carefully offering cadence for the days that have passed and the days yet to come. If we lean in and listen, we’ll hear a new whisper that says, “Life is beginning upon beginning and story upon story. Savor them all and let them sink deep within you.”
The grace that took our hand becomes the grace that holds us close and talks to us about our 20s and 30s and 40s – about the passion still there and the legacy that awaits. There is ache and there is hope.
And I believe with all my heart that there will be something better
I don’t know much about the 60s but this one thing I feel. Legacy will be there, waiting.
And the legacy is this – that this life was not wasted, that the days of invincibility and the days stumbling and rising and running and the days of grace and the days of beginnings and the days of the unknown are all days to be poured like wine into the goblets of the lives of those we love. Our names may disappear from view, but our lives will live on.
And that is indeed something better.