‘I’d never been one to overthink my age, until I was turning fifty’
29th Jan 2022
“Do not complain about growing old. It is a privilege denied to many.”
This is perhaps the quote that has most changed my perspective on ageing. We no longer gasp when we hear that someone has reached their 100th birthday. As a species, we’re living longer. According to the official Census, the life expectancy for a woman in the 1920s was 58 years. Today it’s 82.
I’ve never been one to overthink my age. I moved from my twenties to forties without focusing too much on the numbers. When I was forty-nine, on the cusp of that next big round birthday, a sense of panic began to creep in. The questions “Have I done enough? What actually have I done with my life? Have I left it too late?” all sat there, taunting me, unanswered.
I experienced a month of dread, right up to the big day itself, yet found myself standing on Rossnowlagh Beach in Co Donegal watching the sunrise at 5.30am on the morning itself and all those feelings suddenly and strangely subsided. What remained was deep gratitude for having made it this far, and just as importantly, a genuine sense of excitement for whatever lay ahead. The feeling of a new chapter incoming was incredibly strong and I chose to fully embrace that.
Arguably, it was probably made a little easier because I also felt I was drawing a line under so much of the pain and loss I’d experienced in the previous two decades, and I believed that now was the time to let all that go and move forward with hope.
Hope very much became the theme of my fifties and it continues to be the same today. To my mind, and in my life, hope happens when I’m able to have clarity about where it is I want to go to and who I want to be when I get there. It happens when I’m able to figure out just what I need to do, to fulfil my desires while also understanding that this may include a few little detours along the way.
But hope happens most when I fully believe in myself and when I connect with that feeling that no matter what, I can do this. And that’s what happened. It was a combination of getting that clarity and having the determination to chase after what I wanted and believing, often blindly, in my ability to do just that!
Most of us spend these decades up until our fifties, trying to decipher who we are and what is it that we really want. We primarily use our relationships and friendships with others, to help figure this out; how they see us, how we want to be seen by them. We compare our lives with that of others, in order to establish just how well we are doing at life. Are we winning or are we losing?
But as we move through the decades, something changes and we begin to feel the pull towards something deeper. We start to ask questions about our purpose and look for meaning in our lives. We begin to explore what is it really that makes us happy. If we look in the rear-view mirror, we can see that at each stage along the way and in each decade we’ve lived through, we experienced a crisis or challenge that eased us into the next stage of our growth and development.
This one, at fifty, however, has the potential to feel much more profound and that’s because it is.
In your fifties, you are questioning everything about who you are and you’re no longer focusing on what needs to be done. Let me ask you this; when was the last time you asked the question of yourself ‘what is it that I want to do with my life?’ and then sat with it and waited for the answer? I’m guessing it was a long time ago, if ever.
Growing up, our caretakers and parents made most of the big decisions for us, such as where we would go to school. Later, our teachers, and our experiences at school, as well as our friends, influenced the choices around what we did next and what career choices we made.
The world at large then provided us with a template on how we were supposed to live our lives, including the right time for us to buy a house, settle down and have children because that’s what everyone else was doing. If you were fortunate, or rebellious, you made some of your own decisions in this time and perhaps opted not to go down the traditional route and I’m sure you felt all the happier for it.
Now, stepping into your fifties, you can ask that question again and this time nobody else gets to answer it, but you.
Age is never the biggest obstacle when you find yourself stuck or feeling you’ve left it too late to change. What blocks you is not really listening to what it is you want to do, releasing what you think is expected of you and just doing what it is that you want.
Today, in my early fifties, I feel more vibrant than ever and much more available to joy.
I made the decision as I approached this decade, that it was going to be my best one. To be fair, the competition from the last few wasn’t all that stiff but I knew that the choice as to how this one was going to pan out was entirely mine.
I listened to what I wanted and I went after it with a steely determination that would have been unrecognisable in my thirties. I also know that it’s just going to keep getting better because I can see that for the first time, now that I’m fully living my purpose, shedding all the expectations as I pay attention to my own inner voice telling me that I am indeed absolutely fabulous at fifty!
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Writer. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh is currently accepting applications for her 2022 The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme. She is also host of the TOUGH LOVE ENERGY™ Podcast. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or visit niamhennis.com.