I turned 50 years old an hour and 15 minutes ago and since that time I've been writing and deleting, writing and deleting. I want to pen something profound and beautiful, something wise, with humor and grit, to mark this occasion. The thing is...I don't feel that way. I don't feel beautiful or wise. My 40s seem to have taken my sense of humor with them and the only grit I've got at this point is the bit of mascara still left in the corner of my eye after a day spent crying. I was supposed to be on a beach in Cuba right now, drinking mojitos and making love in the sand.
I feel like I was knocked on the head and have woken up in a life that isn't my own. Surely I can't be 50 years old, with an epically busted heart, living with my parents as I try to take care of them - and not very capably at that - while attempting to jump start a career in a field that is disappearing faster than the polar ice caps? To quote David Byrne, "How did I get here?"
I suppose a more helpful question might actually be "How do I get out of here?" How do I get back to myself, the woman I was years ago, when life held measures of joy and promise? Ascending Kili and Aconcagua - and the physical, emotional, mental, even spiritual work that I have to do in preparation for those climbs - is half of the answer. The other half is easier to achieve, though probably more complicated. I've got to fake it 'til I make it.
Are you familiar with the concept? Basically, you act the part of who and what you want to become, faithfully and with gusto, until you actually become that person. I think it's about using intent and action and maybe even a bit of visualization to make manifest your dreams and desires. And it works. It really does.
I faked it 'til I made it years ago, back before I started traveling and doing things that really alarm my mother, like fording rain-swollen Wyoming rivers on horseback with 6'5" cowboys named Bob and investigating gay leather clubs in Amsterdam. In those days I knew what I wanted - a big life - and what I wanted to become - fearless. I acted that part, pretending to be a big, bold adventurer until it seemed that was what I'd become. For a while. And then I fell harder and more deeply in love than I think I've ever been in life. And my big world started to get smaller. I started to get smaller. Because sometimes big, bold, world-stomping women aren't what men want. Even when that's half the reason why they fell in love with you in the first place.
And when those men who you've changed your life for - hell, tried for years and years to change your very essence for - when they turn around and leave anyway? They leave behind a wraith, a pale shadow, someone with only a vague recollection of who they once were and what happiness feels like.
I don't remember what it's like not to be sad, not to be scared.
So I'm going to try to fake it 'til I make it. I'm going to pretend, as best as I can, to have strength and purpose, energy and even joy. I'm going to imagine that I'm still the woman in this picture up there, which was taken just a couple years ago, by a good friend and just for the sheer hell of it. That woman in the photo - confident, spirited, even gleeful...I want her back. I'm afraid it's too late, that at 50 I'm too old. But I'm going to pretend I'm not.
is a journalist based in the Appalachians of Central Pennsylvania. Her new column about travel, adventure, love, loss, heartbreak and healing can be found on the Woman's Day website. She has contributed to Country Living, Gothamist, Washingtonian, EDGE Media Network, Canadian Traveller, Country, Country Woman, and a host of other festive publications and websites. She is the travel editor for the nation's most beautiful publication, Faerie Magazine. Her column, Rebooted, is published across Pennsylvania. She does not have a death wish.