I am middle-aged. I honestly don’t know how or when I got here, but it’s legit. It’s not just in the number I say out loud when someone asks me how old I am. Or when I give my students my birth year and am returned with perplexed questions as they try to comprehend how I could have actually existed in the 1900s. So, that makes you like… historical? So, you were there when MLK died? So, you’re like, 82? I definitely need to talk to their math teacher.
This middle-aged business pulled up for a ride out of nowhere. I feel it in my knees when I stand up. I see it in my gray hair that peeks through every two and a half weeks. I hear it when I’m jamming out to the radio station that plays songs that target listeners ages 45-60. But mostly, I feel this pull of middle age when I am flanked on one side by my teens, and the other by my aging parents.
I look to the left and catch glimpses of my younger self. Teenagers brimming with all of the life ahead of them. All of the dreams I feel like I was just formulating in my own life during those years. College lists, sports tryouts, dances, and dating. Everything is new and exciting. All of the bright places are still to be discovered.
I look to the right and catch glimpses of the years I’m heading into. Retirement, games of Rummy and golf, looking forward to visits from kids and grandkids who live too far away. Wondering where all of the years went and how they went so quickly. Realizing that so many of the milestones yet to come, are not my own—rather, they are the dreams my boys will create in their days ahead.
I’m smack in the middle of the middle. And, it’s no joke. Life has changed dramatically on both ends of the timeline I am living in, and I hover in the median.
Behind me, my boys have turned into young men. Endless energy and time dedicated to their sports, their schoolwork, their social status. Living in their prime—carefree and young. Bouncing back from obstacles with speed and resilience. Ahead of me, my parents have faced the challenges of aging. My dad has gone blind, my mom has beat cancer. Friends have moved and passed away, and life has slowed down for them to a pace that feels so different than one I’ll ever know. But I know how fast it will actually be here.
Remember that game Red Rover, from back in the 80s? I know I’m dating myself, but if you played it, you know what I’m talking about. Someone calls, “Red Rover, Red Rover, let Amy come over,” and then you bolt full speed ahead, trying to break through a chain of tightly locked arms. If you make it, you take the team you broke through back with you. If you don’t, you are stuck in a place you didn’t want to be until someone hopefully sets you free.
Well, these days, my life feels like that game. Charged with midlife hormones, I’m running full speed ahead to the tightly linked arms of a future I’m not quite ready for, trying to break through so I can grasp a little more of that youth that seems more fleeting every day. There’s a reason they banned that game.
I spend sleepless nights, wrapped in a blanket of hormonal hot flashes, and the anxiety of wondering if my children will arrive home safely from a night out with friends. I question all of my life’s decisions as I ride the wave of mood swings that play like an orchestra in my changing body. Staring into the mirror, expecting to find a reflection that doesn’t betray the 20 years that have somehow slipped by unnoticed, returned with eyes heavy with crow’s feet and bags holding my gaze steadily in the glass.
I find myself wallowing in an ache in my heart that my parents are 75 years old and living hundreds of miles away—too far to enjoy the Sunday night family dinners they always dreamed of having with their kids, all of whom are scattered across the globe. Not enough visits. Too far for them to come to my kids’ sports games. Wishing I had enjoyed more moments and had chosen to be more present when we were together. Regrets that circle my soul like moths to a flame.
And then I snap out of it. I remember that being in the middle of the middle years is actually a gift of perspective. I can look back and relish the magical moments of time as they unfold with my kids in these final years of them living under our roof. I can look ahead and treasure the beauty of having parents to age with—a gift I know so many never get to enjoy.
Being in these middle years has given me the perspective to allow the light into the cracks of my heart. A reminder to me that our lives are a trajectory of remembering and moving forward. Back and forth, like the sway of a gentle breeze. Pulling me to where I once was for brief glimpses of memories and always pushing me onward to where I am supposed to end up. Showing me I am here for just a brief time to ride this current of middle years. To soak up all of the treasured gifts of insight and experience they have given me.
Every knee crack. Every gray hair. Every wrinkle. Every Lionel Richie song I belt out when I hear it on the radio. All of it a reminder that this moment in time will someday be that youth I’m looking back on and that being in the middle of the middle ages is actually a very beautiful place to be.