When I turned 50, I got divorced, sober and became an empty-nester. Almost everything in my life had to change.
Little did I know then, that a year later, I would be the happiest I had ever been. In my 50th year, I tried 50 new things to explore the contours of who I really was and who I wanted to be. I stretched my comfort zone with adventure travel and physical challenges. I changed my lifestyle by, for example, surrounding myself with people who brought out the best in me, and learning to spend my time with great intention, instead of to please others. I explored my spirituality and opened my mind to new healing modalities. I cultivated joy.
So many friends asked me for my list of 50 that I wrote a book about it. I have traveled the country sharing the ways I re-ignited my life. For me, connecting with people and feeling that I have helped them through my experiences is the most gratifying part of being an author.
I learned a great deal through my divorce. Having come from a broken home, I had hoped never to have to go through a divorce of my own. But every experience in life has the capacity to teach us something, if we are open to learning. I learned not to lose myself in relationships. I learned that no one is responsible for my happiness but myself. I learned the difference between being alone and being lonely. I learned that no one has the capacity to make me feel a certain way without my consent. I learned that I am resilient and that I have a great deal more living to do.
If you are feeling rudderless or need a boost in life, I urge you to get off of your life’s treadmill and try something new. The world really is your oyster, and we each have the capacity to design the next chapter of our lives. Start with a list of everything you want to try in life and then see what is possible for you now and what you can work toward achieving.
We take so much for granted in our lives. We can still see, walk and hear. We know we will eat a meal today. For the majority of the world’s inhabitants, the likelihood of adequate food to eat is not a given. Focus on all that you have, instead of what you may have lost. You, too, may be surprised how your life improves with a re-focusing of your energy and perspective.
In relationships, I have learned to focus on what I like about the other person, as opposed to what I do not like. As humans, none of us is perfect. But what we focus on is magnified. So putting on glasses of positivity has increased the quality of all of my relationships.
Now that I am midway through my fifth decade, I am creating a list of what I want to try when I turn 60. It is an organic list that draws from things I read, see and hear about. When we stop learning, we start dying. And I intend to make the most of whatever time I have left.
Maria Leonard Olsen is an attorney, author and radio show host in Washington, D.C. You can learn more about her and her book, 50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life (Rowman & Littlefield 2018), at www.MariaLeonardOlsen.com.