Reflections on Turning 30, 40, and—oh, God—50.


I remember when I was little and I looked at someone who was nearing 50 and thought—Jeez, you’re old. You will be dead soon. You are half a century.

Ten years ago when I was about to turn 40 I had a meltdown–of epic proportions. Things weren’t going too well for me at that time, but luckily, I was able to turn it around. I lost a bit of myself. I thought turning 40 was bad. And it was. The 30s had been so good to me. I loved the way I felt, had babies with my husband, and had supportive girlfriends who were experiencing the same things I was. We talked of motherhood, work, and spouses and love.

This turning 50 thing is going to be a cinch next to turning 40. I’m certain of it. Because the 40s were a time of self-reflection and growth as well. I can (sort of) look back on these past 10 years fondly.

Lots of things have brought me to this conclusion, mostly personal things I’ve been through: striving to earn an MFA in my 40s with young children (which was one of the most fulfilling things I have done educationally), publishing a novel that was in my head for 20 years, and watching my children grow into self-sufficient teens have all been gratifying during my 40s. I feel pretty good about myself these days, and I have learned the hard way not to give two rips about what other people think or say about me. I know who my friends are, have family that means the world to me, and I continue to challenge myself with projects at work, like writing a textbook for the first time with my colleagues.

I find solace with regard to aging when I consider this question: would I want to go back in time and do it all again?

I can honestly answer “no” to that one; while life hasn’t always been easy and there have been some small and big hurdles to overcome, I’ve grown and changed and grown and changed, and I don’t expect that to end during the next 10 years.

As my father said to me recently, “I’ve loved every age I’ve been.” His birthday is today, and he is 70-something. No need to go any further than that. But I remember these words he uttered, and I tend to agree with him.

While not every second of every age has been glorious, they are my years, my memories, and my experiences. They say you should not judge someone unless you have walked in their shoes. The beauty is, no one but me has walked in my shoes.

Even if the feet that will slip inside them are almost half a century.


  • Deborah

    Oh my gosh, Steph! I can so relate. I’m feeling quite the same about approaching 60. I saw a poster on Facebook recently: “I thought it would take longer to get this old.” Like you, though, I wouldn’t go back. I’ve loved the things about my life in spite of the hardships. And I have so much to look forward to in the next year with my return home, and the marriage of my oldest son and his fiance. And reading your books. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    All I can add is this: CELEBRATE! (And remember all those who did not have the chance to celebrate 50 years and would have been more than happy to enjoy that special day.) Mom

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