50 is a very reflective age and I have spent a great deal of the last few months thinking about my life and the decisions I have made. I am the kind of person who finds having a big decision hanging over my head unbearable. I would rather make an impulsive decision just to end the tension and live with the consequences than ruminate endlessly over the decision, examining all possible outcomes with a magnifying glass. I tend to trust my gut instinct about situations and assume that every choice I make leads me to where I need to be.
And yet. . .
The last few months I have been thinking a lot more than is characteristic for me about the roads not taken. I have been having second thoughts about opportunities I did not take advantage of, about times when I said “no” instead of “yes.” I have been having second thoughts about my inaction, about not holding my breath and diving off those cliffs.
Some of these musings have been around education and career choices such as having chosen to pursue my Masters of Social Work instead of a PhD in Gender Studies. Or regretting that I did not pursue that Post-baccalaureate program and apply for medical school. Why didn’t I become a pastry chef?! It would have been cool to be pastry chef.
Some of these second thoughts have been more relational. The two people in my life that I had the most intense physical chemistry with are two people that I actually only ever kissed. Perhaps it would have been a disappointment if more intimacy lines had been crossed, but I suspect that they would pop into my mind less now if there had been less mystery then. And in Katie’s case, for the amount of havoc it caused in my life just to kiss her, we should have just slept together! I was viewed as a scarlet woman regardless. Hmmm. . . that does make me sound much more badass than I was feelings at the time.
I wish I had traveled more before kids, gone to more concerts, read more books. I wish I had started working out sooner when my knees were younger and that I hadn’t eaten like I was still in my 20s when I was 40. I wish that I had become a vegetarian sooner and that I had never needed my thyroid out. I wish I had taken dance classes and been the lead singer of a rock band. I wish I spent more time with my friends.
The nice thing about being 50 and sitting with my second thoughts is that if I am lucky, there is still time to pursue some of these roads not taken. Maybe it won’t be as easy to try new things now as it would have been at 18 or 30, and of course, it would have been nice to have had more time doing the things that I love that satisfy my soul, but I suspect that I will have an appreciation for some of these things at 50 that I couldn’t have had at 22.
So, I will get that tattoo, and continue to learn to play my beautiful new guitar and take that writing class in the Spring. I will invite interesting people for coffee and try to get together with my college friends now, instead of just waiting for reunion. I will continue to look for more cliffs to dive off of and things to say “yes” to, because who needs more second thoughts?!