My 50th birthday party this year was everything that I could have secretly hoped for. It was a day-long event in which I was loved, pampered, honored, and treated like a Queen. I realize that many women who turn 50 want to skulk away in the shadows, hoping the dreaded day might pass without much fanfare. But although I approached the day with a certain sadness, I knew I wanted it to be a proud celebration. I wanted to be 50 and proud. And I wanted to be treated like a Queen, because on that day, I felt like one.
From breakfast in bed, to a compimentary shopping spree for a new outfit, to having my hair AND make-up done professionally, I slid into the day with as much personal confidence as a woman of my age could hope for. I was even given false eyelashes by the make-up artist, something I had only previously worn on Halloween.
I looked in the mirror, and felt pretty. I could certainly see the slight crevices and shadows of age in my face--but I also saw my youthful exhuberance--a trait I am almost known for. At least for that one day, I was determined not to focus on my flaws. Today wasn't a day for self-hatred.
I never had children--let alone grandchildren--so I have always felt somewhat "in the dark" about the passing of time. I didn't have the usual reference points that most of my friends had, to remind them every day that they were middle-aged. No children to call me "Mom," and certainly no one out there to call me "Grandma." Imagine! I couldn't.
I still had the joy and energy I had at 17--perhaps even more so. And what made my delusion even more fierce is that I had reunited with my High School boyfriend at our 25th High School reunion. Peter still looks practically as young as he did when we went to the prom together at the age of 17--so our relationship has only furthered my warped sense of time. And I have kept my home decor almost the same as I did when I was a very young woman. I feel the same inside.
So when I stared at my face in the mirror moments before I was whisked away to the pre-party VIP cocktail party on my 50th birthday, I was happy with the reflection that met me. I looked youthful. And I was off to have my first martini of the evening....with my friends and family--who had come from far and wide to honor me and my special day.
The cocktail party was held at my brother's "mansion" as we call it, because he went deep into debt to build a most impressive castle on the coast. The entire top floor of his house is a bar--with an airport theme. I don't think many people have the means to make an entire floor into a party room...with a long lavish bar and bar stools...and accompanying cocktail tables. Not to mention the view of the ocean. It's stunning. But this event was only the precursor to the real party that was to follow.
I was whisked away again, to a winery. I may have thought I had many friends and family at the cocktail party, but this second party was filled with even more revelers. Old friends from High School. X-husbands and X-boyfriends. Childhood friends. It was overwhelming.
I was almost in a daze as I greeted each face, one after another, each face more shocking than the last. In a flurry, I was handed momento after momento; friends stuffing old pictures in my hands, letters I'd written to them as children, slice after slice of my past, bittersweet, like a rhubarb pie.
My 8th grade boyfriend was there. He handed me a card that contained pictures of me as a little girl. And in the card he wrote, "They say you never forget your first love. And you were certainly that for me."
My X-best friend of 1st grade handed me a poem I had written when I was only 6 years old. It talked about pain and suffering. It talked with a depth of knowledge that I normally don't associate with 6 year olds. And it was me. Me talking back to me, as if in a time warp, 44 years later. I felt tears spring to my eyes. There she was, the little poet. The little poet who was sure she'd be the next Poet Laureate. The little girl who always knew she'd earn a living as a writer. The little girl who had gone on to write her entire life--poetry, short stories, articles, and three novels known as the "tomes." But who would never earn a living that way.
What had happened to me? Well, I knew what had happened. I could trace every choice I ever made with my mind's eye, and knew why I ended up where I did. Because through a series of choices--choices that seemed necessary at the time, I became an Accountant.
Every stranger that I meet, when I tell them what I do, they stare back at me with shock and surprise. "YOU?" they tend to squeal. Because I am a far cry from the stereotypical accountant. I am hardly boring; I am a loud and boisterous Italian, that speaks my mind almost too easily. I am neither shy or retiring; and I am certainly far from a loner. In fact, I have so many friends that people think I run around always in a pack. I am not the bespectacled studious type, bunched over columns and columns of numbers, happy to have something in front of me that makes sense. Because I love things that don't make sense.
What happened to me?
And if my career choice wasn't bad enough, losing my job made it even worse. I had been "let go" (a term that gives me the shudders) on December 16th, 2008--at the start of the worst recession in American History since the Great Depression.
At least before I could boast of a decent salary, benefits, stature, and the rest of the perks that go with a life-long career. But now my job was gone, and god damn it...I couldn't find another one.
I was unemployed.
I was 50.
I had never become the writer that I knew I would be.
And I wondered what had happened to all of my dreams.
I continued to greet face after face at my party, and my thoughts became more and more jumbled. I almost felt as if I were in a daze. Everyone there was a culmination of everything I had become. But I no longer knew who that was.
So I have begun this blog to find out. And with your help, perhaps I will.