I will be spending my birthday hiking up (and down) Valencia Peak in Los Osos, California. This is an appropriate way to spend my day. I will literally be going “over the hill” on my 50th birthday. I remember when I was younger and getting over a hill meant getting past a difficulty. When riding bikes as children, we struggled up the hills so that we could coast down the other side with hearts beating double time and the wind blowing in our hair. Wednesday has been universally dubbed “hump day” because on that day we have climbed halfway through the work week and can see our way through to the weekend. On Saturday when I hike, I assume it will be a relief to reach the top and have only the descent left. In many contexts, getting over the hill means we’ve reached the better half, so when did getting “over the hill” become a derogatory term for aging? I want to apply the other contexts for this term to the second half of my life.
The other side of the hill promises to be the better half of my life. I’ve spent the first 50 years climbing to this point. I’ve worked hard and learned from countless mistakes made. The struggle has made me strong and showed me what to have confidence in. I am learning to discern between what matters and what doesn’t. I’m becoming able to truly be at peace and enjoy. The hard work it has taken to get to the top of this hill is starting to reap benefits.
There is an ease to this later stage of life which contrasts the chaos of earlier life, much like the hiker who has reached the apex and is getting ready for descent. With age seems to comes serenity and security. Perhaps this is why I’ve secretly looked forward to being an old woman since I was a child. It may not be life that actually gets easier, just our reactions to life’s events. Outer circumstances may not be what changes, but rather the inner fortitude. With so many problems conquered (or at least survived), new challenges seem less foreboding. Tasks that used to seem overwhelming have become commonplace and routine. Older beings, it seems, move through the same difficult world with a new calm.
I am ready for the exhilaration of my journey down the other side of the hill, ready to struggle less and experience more. Maybe I’ll try new things, crossing items off my bucket list. Perhaps I’ll observe more carefully and appreciate what is already around me. Either way, I want my heart to beat double time with the wind blowing through my hair.