Once upon a time, there was a girl. She lived in a magical place where anything was possible. A branch could be a magic wand; a stone could be a precious gem, a weeping willow, a castle. There were a thousand games in that land, and she was the queen. In the autumn light, her hair sparkled like a crown. She collected the world in tiny handfuls, and as day surrendered to dusk, she skipped home with twigs in her hair and enchantment in her heart.
We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whimsy and fire. We bound into the world singing to sparrows and reading the clouds. We see the universe in tiny grains of sand.
But something happens as we journey into womanhood. We get the whimsy educated right out of us. We get it churched out, disciplined out, and scrubbed out. We are shown a respectable path and told to act our age. We learn to temper our tears and measure our magic.
We become sensible. We become good mothers and professional women who agreeably bend to the expectations of generations who came before us.
And then, one day, we wake to a reflection we no longer recognize.
Several years ago, I began to feel stuck in this strange middle place. Life felt different for me. My children were growing into young adulthood, and the face of motherhood began to shift. Somewhere inside – with a bit of rancor – I wondered if maybe I mattered too.
I could sense an untethering, but my unease had little to do with the fear that something would happen; and much more to do with the fear that something beautiful would not.
I began to wonder if adapting the script of my life was possible. Could I recall the me from many years ago? And could I use what I discovered to help people care about big ideas? Could I eliminate things I no longer had the drive to do and open the window of my world to new people and places, not as someone’s mother or someone’s daughter, not defined by outside noise, but simply as me? I needed to stop trying to make myself invisible and acceptable. I had to be willing to turn the page, possessed with enough personal audacity to kick down the door and to welcome the unknown.
Midlife is not the time to stop working on ourselves; it’s time to examine how we’ve kept ourselves bound for so long. For me, it has been a time to take a stand for my own potential. It is the difference between August and September, between the density of late summer and the crisp fresh air of early fall. These years are messy, but they are sacred. Holy work always is.
What is the point? This is your life; it’s all you get. So, if you find yourself on a road that no longer feels safe, turn the car around, get out – change your shoes and start walking, because life doesn’t look back.