June 30th, 2011- Stacey Horan
They say 40 is a big one. The threshold of middle age? Maybe, if we’re lucky. I chose to view my own 40th birthday as the end of one big adventure and the start of countless others. And I was right.
My 40th birthday was similar to many of my other birthdays, with cake, a few presents and well wishes from friends. It also was the beginning of the end of my legal career and the start of my writing career. I was living in England at the time and working as in-house counsel for a big company. The day after my birthday was my last day in the office, and the day after that I put my two lovely, sweet dogs on a plane at Heathrow airport for a transatlantic flight where they were met by my husband at JFK airport. My husband had moved to New York a month earlier to start his new job and get us settled there. It was my responsibility to pack up our life in England so that it could be shipped across the Atlantic and then join him in New York a few days later. I did all of this and arrived at JFK exhausted. I slept for three days, feeling every bit as old, tired and forty as I actually was.
I continued to work for the big company for a short time from New York. When that was over, I floated untethered for a few months. I struggled with the idea of not being tied to an office job or weighed down by work-related stress. I had written a draft of a novel while in England, and I continued to work on it in New York. Soon a second book was written, and there were plans for more swirling around in my head. However, it wasn’t long before I was back working for that big company. I rejoined for a variety of reasons, some of which were clear to me and others not so much.
The years rolled on, as they inevitably do, and my husband and I moved again. This time, we moved to Florida to be closer to family, bask in the warm weather and rejoice in the lack of state income tax. Eventually, I resigned from my job (again) and declared that this time I was retiring from the practice of law for good. I wrote another book, and then another, and then a couple more. I was finally doing something I loved, and it made life wonderful. That doesn’t mean everything was sunshine and roses, because life doesn’t work that way. I also watched loved ones struggle, suffer, get sick. I even said a few good-byes.
Now, ten years later, I am celebrating another birthday. There will be cake, maybe a few presents and family members who are vaccinated and/or sufficiently quarantined. I admit that it is hard to wrap my mind around fifty. It seems like only yesterday I turned forty, and yet…that birthday happened ten years ago.
Fifty is another big one, so they say. Is this one actually my life’s midpoint? Maybe, if I’m lucky. At 50, I’m not nearly as tired as I was at 40, nor as stressed. That could be due to the pandemic-imposed lifestyle changes, but more likely it’s simply the result of getting older and wiser, spending time with people I love and doing work that brings me joy.
When I married my husband almost twenty years ago, I told him that I saw my life as a book, and I wanted that book to be filled with adventures. I’ve learned to welcome adventures in all shapes and sizes: big, colorful ones (like changing careers and writing books), medium-sized ones (such as running half-marathons and creating a podcast) and small, lovely ones that fill the pages in between (like hosting family dinners, making friends and enjoying nature). Some adventures are glorious (babies and weddings), and some are horrible (cancer and death). We don’t always get to choose our adventures. Sometimes they just happen.
And ten years from now? I can guess there will be cake and maybe a few presents. Hopefully family and friends as well. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more books written and dinners hosted, and for less grieving. My book of life has pages filled with all of these adventures, and it has plenty of room for more… If I’m lucky.
Stacey Horan is an award-winning author of young adult novels. Her works include Sycamore Lane, Inland and The Elixir Vitae Adventures series. Stacey also hosts a podcast, The Bookshop at the End of the Internet, which is dedicated to helping book lovers discover new authors. Visit her website at www.staceyhoran.com or on social media at @staceyleehoran.