Turning 50

Published June 8th, 2018

Here I am, back at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, after a magical trip to Spain to celebrate my 50th Birthday. I never thought I would make a big deal about turning 50, in part knowing these 'milestones' to be social constructions. I never saw the chimps in Tanzania celebrating birthdays! But, given that age does bring wisdom, I recalled a while back that I did get emotional upon turning 30, and 40, and wanted to prevent any potential anxiety about whether or not I am where I want to be in my life. So, I planned a party in Barcelona, with a few loved ones. It was awesome. And the memories will last forever.

Leading up to the celebration, I did get the sense that this year would be all about "before 28 May" and "after 28 May," as if actually turning 50 would change me in some way. Truth be told, it is much more of a gradual process. I would say over the last 3-5 years, my choices have come with more clarity and at an accelerated pace. I don't have to deliberate as much anymore about what I need at any moment, what feels yummy, and what feels yucky. This, to me, is wisdom; just knowing what my needs are and being clearer about how to get them met. It's a great liberation, this aging thing.

Now, I will say, I was surprised how many friends and colleagues in the States were curious why I admitted how old I was turning. Some even said "women here don't admit their age like that, just say it is your second 49th Birthday." What? Why? My African and many European friends and colleagues sent me beautifully different sentiments: "Long life to you!" "God bless for another 50" "May the creator and the ancestors bless you and your family forever." Wise elders are revered in other cultures, not so much in America, but they should be!

I am here to tell you, it is completely possible to hold a child-like fascination about the world in one part of your consciousness while using wisdom of experience at the same time. To keep a youthful energy and be guided by wise movement at the same time. I've said this before, life is not so much about "either-or" as it is "both-and".

After seeing my photo from my Barcelona Birthday, a few friends asked me why I look like I turned 40, not 50. Honestly, I credit my practice of yoga, meditation and an attitude of gratitude...as I haven't coloured my hair or 'done anything' to my face and body. Meditation keeps away anxiety and stress and the resulting lines and marks they leave on the surface, and yoga keeps my body-mind free and flexible. Clearly, it works :)

Last month I was blessed to sit down and chat with Deborah Szekely, the 96 year old founder of Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico, one of the original destination wellness and spa centers. I was very curious to know whether she actually ate the pescatarian, mainly vegetarian, low or no alcohol farm-to-table diet served at the Ranch all her life, and perhaps that was the reason she was still with us at 96. She replied "heck no, when I was working for the Inter-American Foundation in the 1980's, doing work like you do Tanya in Tanzania, I was in the jungles of Peru eating peanuts and drinking beer! That was the only food I could get, and the beer was safer to drink than the water!" As we talked, and I watched her walk around the trails with only the aid of a cane, I realized her longevity and youthful energy came mainly from her attitude towards life. Life was still fascinating to her, people are still fascinating to her, thinking, learning and generally pushing cynicism aside and to share good old-fashioned wisdom gave her fuel. She reminded me of myself, and how blessed I have been to follow a road less travelled, being fueled by people, relationships, profoundly satisfying work, and, simply, holding onto the joy in it all.

So, now that I have entered the "after 28 May" part of this year, do I feel different? Well, yes, I do. I have a new dose of confidence to keep living as I have been living. There is no need to be disappointed in not achieving certain things by 50, as who is to say what those should or should not be? At this point, my friends, I can say the most important goal one should have, at any age, is to live your truth, be the best version of you you can be, and to see the joy in it all.

Have a great day everyone!

Ashe