Try as I might to ignore it, this year I’m having one of those big birthdays that others refuse to let pass quietly.
On the eve of my thirtieth birthday, I was on a plane that had to make an emergency landing. I decided then and there that turning thirty was better than dying in a plane crash.
When I turned forty I was so disgruntled I had to remind myself about that earlier ephipany as I reluctantly drug myself to a friend’s house for what I expected to be a private pity party. Once I arrived at her place students, friends, and family surprised me with a party so touching that pity had no place at any party since.
What I didn’t know then that never ceases to amaze me now is that my forties have been my favorite decade. If someone had told me life would become so juicy at midlife, I would have never believed them. Partly because our culture tries to convince us that adventures in love, life, and living large only happen to the young and reckless and partly because I didn’t think I had it in me.
If the past few years are any indication, I have to believe things are only going to get more interesting. This is not because my life is easier. On the contrary, new challenges I could never have imagined earlier pop up daily.
It’s just that one day I decided it was time to grow up and do what needed to be done. I also discovered I could do this without compromising what mattered most to me. Now I have the resources – confidence, experience, health insurance, and a steady income – to deal with the daily drudgery as well as the delights.
This doesn’t happen by default. For things to get more interesting, I have to get more interesting. I can’t do this simply by planning for retirement. I have to practice the power of full engagement each day. To be an excellent educator, I have to be a life long learner. To be a success, I also have to be willing to be a life long loser since success for me has never been an immediate outcome of trying something new.
With this in mind, I’ve decided the most meaningful way to celebrate my life so far is to share what I do best with the people I love most. I’ve decided to write a Midlife Manifesto called Words to Live By and create a video and ebook that I can deliver straight to your computer just for the asking. This does two things.
1) It catapults me out of my comfort zone and lights my creative fire by forcing me to learn something new, necessary, and, after the initial frustration, fun. 2) It gives you something that is personal, something you can share if you want to, and hopefully something that will be meaningful to you as well.
Since the big day is just a few months away, I have some essays to write. Fifty of them to be exact.
The next few months you may see a frenzy of activity on this blog site as I feverishly post the essays in progress. Or you may see the occasional ramblings of a distracted writer who has suddenly decided cleaning out the refrigerator or alphabetizing the can goods is top priority.
This happens to creative people. It could be happening to you, in fact. Like preparing for an intense workout, we sometimes need a warm up activity before committing to the inevitable.
I used to facilitate a weekly creativity group. Coaching people into coaxing out their creative side remains one of my all time favorite things to do. But the biggest thing I learned from that experience is in order for me to help others unleash their creativity, I must unleash mine.
So here’s to a couple of months of unprecedented creative outpouring. When it’s time to roll out the finished project, I hope your spirit will catch fire and you, too, will unleash your creativity in all kinds of unexpectedly brilliant ways .