On Turning 50: Part II

I am now 51, and what a rich and transformative journey this turning 50 business has been. After writing On Turning 50: Part I, I promised there would be more to come. And, well, there wasn't, not here on the blog anyway. Trust me, though, there was lots more to come and lots more still to come, so I decided to go back a spell to tell a bit of that story.

I turned 50 last summer (2015) while in Colorado. I planned a big adventure that included going to bike mechanic school for a week and then spending the entire month of July traveling across Colorado. I had this ideal, romantic vision of how this trip would unfold. Truthfully, I didn't really have a plan, and that was the plan. I was just going to start off in Colorado Springs at bike mechanic school and then continue on driving west and stopping wherever I wanted to along the way until I made it all the way across the state to Grand Junction. I envisioned camping out or sleeping in my car in beautiful natural settings, writing, biking, running, living in Thoreauesque solitude. I wanted to do something epic for my 50th birthday, and, honestly, I had finally ended a bad-idea relationship and wanted to get far, far away from the after-fire of it all.

I want to tell this story now because this trip is especially significant to my current "place" because it was the point where I decided I wanted different -- as in Want Different. Do Different. I had been stuck in a place that wasn't good for me and had gradually shifted my focus from all the things I found joy in doing: running, biking, writing, yoga. I was in a relationship with someone who drained me emotionally, physically, financially, and it took me a long time to wake myself up and walk away from a very unhealthy lifestyle that had become my norm. I wanted peace and joy in my life again, and this Colorado adventure was pretty much the first step in figuring things out and getting unstuck. I didn't really know where I was headed or how long I'd be there; I just wanted to move, as in set my life in motion.

On July 1st I packed up my car and left for Colorado. My first stop was in Augusta, Missouri, where I spent the first (very stormy) night of my trip camping alone in my tent in Klondike Park. I admit I was scared shitless as a woman spending the night all alone in a tent in a campground.

Bike mechanic school was more intense than I expected. Plus I was taking an online Intro to TESOL course, which was supposed to equate to ten hours of instruction and work each week but was more like 15 hours a week. By the end of that week, I was completely exhausted.

This trip was frightening in a lot of ways. I was dealing with fear and with breaking away from old patterns. So many people told me how brave and inspirational I was, but, really, I was afraid of a lot. So many negative voices, within myself and even from well meaning friends, told me I coudn't/shouldn't be out there doing this all alone. I could get robbed, raped, killed.

After my week of bike mechanic school was over, I panicked. I wanted the safety of my home. I wanted the security and predictability of my old habits. I knew what to expect there even if it was not a happy, healthy place. I freaked out a bit and jumped right into my car and drove the 14 hours straight to pull into my driveway at 2:30 a.m. in order to get back to that fake sense of security. And once I got there I was not content for long.

The Big Colorado Adventure did not pan out the way I had envisioned. It was a wonderful learning experience, though -- an opportunity to dip my toes in the water as a female nomad.

BUT... What I came away with:
  • I loved waking up in the morning to the beauty of mountains. Manitou Springs/Colorado Springs was stunning, breathtaking, all of those superlatives. This trip planted the seed for my desire to now live in a mountain town out West. 
  • I was at the very top of Pike's Peak (14,114 feet above sea level) on my 50th birthday and rode a bike all the way down. How incredible is that?!
  • I learned new skills. I passed my courses in Bicycle Assembly and Maintenance and Spoked Wheel Lacing. 
  • I met wonderful people from so many parts of the country. 
  • I learned that I can just pack up and take off alone. I gained the courage to travel more rather than talk about it. 
This trip really was the beginning of so much good change in my life (that I will be writing more about... soon, not a year and a half from now, I promise). It's lonely traveling alone sometimes, but usually I do it for personal reflection, a spiritual journey to renew my soul. Sometimes we need to get away from a life we box ourselves into to gain better perspective, to look at ourselves from a different vantage point. The only way to really get to know yourself is to spend a great deal of time alone with yourself. Sometimes that is scarier than hell. But definitely a trip worth taking. 

Climb those mountains, my friends. The view is amazing. 


Anonymous said…
This is a really inspiring post. I took away a lot as I am struggling with that need to change but need to REALLY CHANGE and stick to it. I too may be in an emotionally draining relationship that I am not at all ready or prepared to leave as I never planned to...
Good luck to you :) I plan to stick to my small changes this year as a start.

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