In just over two months, I’ll turn fifty, which is both exciting and terrifying in equal measure, because as absurd as it sounds I have been totally caught off guard without a plan for the next forty years. The way I see it, I have two choices … to hold on to and grieve for ‘what was’ or navigate my way towards the start of an exciting new stage, embrace the uncertainty of what ‘might be.’ As luck would have it, my 50th year also happens to coincide with my first year as a part time parent and the perfect opportunity to sell up, pare down, and take off on a Golden Gap adventure.
I know it’s not ‘the norm’ for a fifty-year-old woman to take off on a solo adventure and while part of me feels all Helen Reddy … “watch me roar”… another part feels like I should be doing something sensible and ‘adulty.’ But, after twenty plus years of juggling parenting, partnering, careers and caring, surely I’ve earned this rite of passage to reflect, reboot and regroup in preparation for the start of a new chapter. For centuries, Rites of passage have been used to celebrate milestones and act as place markers for both endings and new beginnings. So why are they so conspicuously absent from the second half of our lives? Maybe it’s because the unspoken inference is that there isn’t much to celebrate after fifty? My golden gap is more than just an adventure. It’s a rite of passage, marking my transition from full-time to part-time parenting and a celebration of my own golden jubilee.
Lesson 1: Acknowledge endings and celebrate new beginnings
This travelling alone thing has opened my eyes to the fact that (both literally and metaphorically) … “there is more than one way.” The first half of my life followed a well-worn path. School followed by university, career, marriage, kids and divorce. A path that unfolded more by default than design and without thought for what would come next. For the past two decades ‘my why’ has been my family, but as that role transitions into a more part time position, I have been left feeling decidedly ‘whyless.’ Now here I am, knocking on the door of fifty, feeling simultaneously liberated, elated and alarmed. What happened to that life I was destined for? I can’t accept that my greatest successes are behind me. I am ready for more and in the end; I suspect that I’ll only regret the chances I didn’t take.
Lesson 2 : It’s never too late to start
My golden gap is giving me the space to rediscover what it means to be me. I have always loved to write. Words give a voice to my thoughts, securely corralling my memories into stories for safekeeping. I’m certain that stories need to be a part of “my why.” Maybe, the stories that I share will resonate with others or plant the seed of an idea that might grow into something amazing.
Lesson 3 : Our stories are the custodians of our memories.
And so here I am, approaching the halfway point of my ‘golden gap’ and feeling a mashup of mixed emotions. I always thought that it was the ‘unknown’ that I was scared of, but on reflection I think that I was more afraid of ‘the known’ coming to an end. A part of me is still pining for the familiarity and security that has warmed my world for the past twenty years and a part of me feels liberated and excited by the infinite possibilities of all the ‘unknowns’ that lie ahead.
Ang Galloway is an ‘aspiring’ writer, who is currently travelling the world on her ‘Golden Gap’ rite of passage. Through her love of stories, she hopes to inspire other women who feel plagued by a persistent whisper that says “there must be more to life than this,” to rediscover their ‘why’ and reimagine a second act full of passion and purpose.