Today I completed my 50th trip around the sun and this last lap was kind of a dumpster fire. The past year was difficult for most on many levels, me included. To be honest, life has been challenging globally (need I mention the pandemic and the subsequent economic collapse), locally (in both my current home, Hong Kong, and my heart home, the U.S.) and personally.
I know it’s been a long while since I last posted. I have been dreadfully neglectful in my blogging duties. The world, for the most part, has been shut down which put the kibosh on Team Woods’ world travels. Hence, I haven’t had much to blog about.
But today I turned 50 and I decided that that in itself is a blog-worthy event. While I have approached this notable birthday “not like the quarry-slave at night, scourged to his dungeon,” I have been observing its arrival for quite some time from a distance with the same sort of feelings I get when I’m due for an annual teeth cleaning. I don’t necessarily dread a visit to the dentist, but I don’t look forward to it either.
Yes, I’m grateful that I have reached this age because there are certainly those whom I know who did not. There is something about turning a half century, though.
It’s just a number; I know this.
And I don’t feel old. Physically, I think I’ve held up pretty well. Despite a season of Navy life in my 20’s (VP-16 peeps, you know what I mean), baring 2 babies and parenting teenagers (if anything kills me, it’ll be this), I’m in good health, reasonably sane and I don’t think I look half bad. I reached this point without the aid of science, neither chemical nor surgical, unless hair dye counts.
When I was in my 20’s, I remember reading an article about what people in their 80’s and 90’s said they would do differently if they could relive their lives. Some responded that they would have eaten more ice cream. I’ve always been a reasonably healthy eater, but when I read these lamentations it sparked an epiphany. I resolved that once I hit a certain age, I would stop caring so much about my dress size and start eating whatever I wanted. I never determined what age that would be, however, and I still don’t think I’ve quite reached it yet. I maintain the same principle about coloring my gray hair, which I only started doing the past couple of years. I’m pretty close to ditching the hair dye, but I’m still a bit further away from being indifferent about my diet. At this point in life, it’s not so much the weight I fret about, it’s the obesity and the ill health effects thereof that concern me; and this attitude I realize is just another indication I’m getting old. I never fretted over such things in my 20’s.
I thought this birthday was a good time to pause and reflect a bit on my life thus far.
Some things haven’t turned out as I originally intended. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Most notably, my career hasn’t panned out as expected. Given the huge detour I took to homeschool my kids, this is not a surprise. My 20-year-old self never would have envisioned such an undertaking. Looking back now, I’m grateful for the time spent with my kids, specifically the time we took to travel and the ability to do day-to-day life together (even though some days were downright ugly). The thing about homeschooling, though, is that I can’t unequivocally claim my kids’ accomplishments as my own. Does that really matter? Well, no, but if I had continued on the trajectory of my legal career, I could have looked back on whatever I achieved (or failed) and declared “I did that.”
I began homeschooling Aaron after kindergarten, Webley after 3rd grade. Aaron was a blank slate, really, unlike Webley who already could read and do long division. Aaron could not read or write when we began this journey. Actually, he could barely hold his pencil. I remember feeling this huge weight of responsibility to educate him. After much hand-wringing and shedding buckets of tears, he’s now in 8th grade and works mostly independently doing geometry and composing research papers. No one ever says much of his evolution as if all this just sort of happened organically. Truthfully, I don’t believe I deserve all the credit for it. But I did play an important part. If I hadn’t been diligent teaching him to read, drilling multiplication tables and diagramming sentences, he would probably have different life prospects. Still, if one day he wins say the Nobel Peace Prize (I don’t think he’s in jeopardy of this, by the way), there’s a certain prideful part of me that believes I deserve an honorable mention.
On my journey through life thus far, I’ve come to realize certain things. I’ve learned that:
- Relationships are hard, especially the ones that matter.
- Drama and nonsense are a waste of time and energy.
- There’s wisdom in leaving some things unsaid.
- Comfort mostly trumps fashion.
- I don’t always have to be right.
- If my feet are cold, my whole body is cold and vice versa.
- Life isn’t worth living if I have to give up carbs.
- Good coffee makes me happy.
- I don’t really like surprises, even good ones.
- Dogs are awesome.
I’m late to the party on the last bullet point having been a steadfast cat person for most of my life.
As enlightening as looking back is, it’s probably more important to look forward to the time ahead. There are things that I’m looking forward to. Lord willing, I’d like to pursue endeavors for which I’m passionate. To be honest, I don’t believe I ever truly figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. My professional pursuits included banking, law and educating my children. I enjoyed (and loathed) each of them, but truthfully never felt deep passion for any of them. I’d like to find and experience a passion. For the first time in my life I have the flexibility to seek it.
In addition to this pursuit, I look forward to witnessing, with hopeful expectation, the lives that my children will build for themselves. That prospect is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. And lastly, I look forward to an empty nest that affords me time to more closely connect with Benjy.
So, on this 50th birthday, that’s a snapshot of my life looking backward and ahead.
Happy birthday to me.