Today I’m officially 50. Wow! That sounds so weird…Fifty. Half a century. Yikes! The thing is, I thought I’d be freaking out about this. But, I’m not. I’m sad that my mom isn’t here to celebrate with me. To say, “Happy Birthday, Sweet Pea!” To tell me I might be 50, but I’m still her little girl, her baby. And, she’d say, “Yup, you’re getting old!” She had a way of being at once sweet, and a little salty. I loved that about her.
But, the turning 50 thing? I’m kind of surprised that I’m not more wigged out about it. I think I’ve done a lot of reflecting over the past year between mom’s passing and this impending big birthday. And I’ve just been pondering life in general. And, you know what? I’m good with my life. But, it wasn’t always that way for me.
My sister always knew she wanted to be a nurse. So that was her path, since she was probably about 12 years old or maybe younger. My brother – talented artist. So, that was his path. He’s a graphic designer. They both had these relatively straight paths to their careers and their passions – and their lives.
Me? Well, my path has zigged and zagged all over the place! My folks would say, “Would you just pick one thing and stick with it!” But, I couldn’t. There’s so much that interested me. So much to explore. So many things to learn. So, I zigged for a while, then I zagged for a bit. I used to see myself as a failure or a flake or a fuck up for being so zig-zaggy with my life. What the fuck was wrong with me?
I felt this way for many years. But, then I met my friend and former co-worker, Sue, about 11 years ago. I told her all the things I had done in my life up to that point. “Wow! You’ve lead a pretty cool life,” she commented. Huh? She didn’t say, “Oh, couldn’t make up your mind” or some other veiled put down. It was then that I started to think about my life a little differently. But, I still struggled with feeling like a screw up. If I could just stay focused…
After moving back to Cincinnati in 2011, I met my friend, MB. Again, I told her of the life I had led, the jobs I had worked, the degrees I possessed. “You’re a Renaissance woman!” she exclaimed. What? Where did that come from? I don’t think I had ever seen myself in this light.
But, then I did. And, I started to own it. I looked at my life, now 50 years of it, and thought, “Wow – what an amazing life I’ve had.” Seriously, if it were to come to an end tomorrow (and I really hope it doesn’t as I have loads of plans), I’d have lived a very full life. And all the zigging and zagging? Damn proud of it! I wouldn’t be who I am today without all the zigging and zagging along my path.
About a month ago, I ran across this video from Elizabeth Gilbert. You know, the woman who wrote (and lived) Eat, Pray, Love. I hope you’ll watch it. It’s a bit lengthy, but very worth the time.
So in this video Liz talks about how she was a straight path kind of gal, always knowing she wanted to be a writer. She tells the story of how she would do these talks and tell people to follow their passion and this will, in turn, make them happy. But one time, after giving one of these supposed inspirational speeches, someone called her out on this whole “follow your passion” thing. And, it made her step back a bit and look at things in a new light. She realized that maybe not all of us are on that single-focused path. And as she thought about friends and colleagues in her life, she realized that there are a lot of folks out there who do a hell of a lot of zigging and zagging.
She calls herself, and people like her (my sister comes to mind), a jack hammer. Focused on the one thing, keeping your nose to the grindstone and your eyes on that single path. And she calls those of us whose path has been anything but straight, hummingbirds. I love this! We are the ones who follow our curiosity. We flit over here to check something out. Then we float over there to see what that’s all about. We zig and we zag. And, in the process, we disperse little pieces of information – pieces of our hearts and souls – to others we meet along the way. We may even find that “passion” as we flit and float and fly around. And, the world needs us. The world needs us to zig and zag.
I had tears in my eyes at the end of this. Don’t get me wrong – I know I’m not a fuck up and I didn’t need Elizabeth Gilbert to tell me so. But, maybe hearing her take on it, especially since she was so singularly focused on being a writer her whole life, gave me some validation. Validation that I haven’t always received. Not that I necessarily need this, at least not any more. As I said, I’ve come to embrace my crazy path in life. I happily own it.
So, as I celebrate 50 incredible years on this beautiful Earth, I happily do so as a hummingbird. Or perhaps, I’m a bit more like a butterfly. I am happy with my life of flitting and floating – zigging and zagging. Has curiosity lead me to my passion? Perhaps. I believe my passions of travel, photography, writing, exploring and learning are all beginning to meld into something. It’s a work in progress. But, I may zig again for while. Then zag for bit. And if I do, it’s okay. It will be my curiosity taking me where I need to go at that moment in time.
Cheers to me, on a life well-lived. And cheers to all the other hummingbirds out there. The world needs us to be exactly who we are!