- By Sue Campbell
"Lobster for breakfast!"
That's how Roberta Deihl responded when we asked Next Avenue readers to tell us about their 50th birthday celebrations.
Deihl's three words capture the exuberance, decadence and straight-up fun that most readers found (or hope to find) at 50. As news of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Snacks & Sips & Dancing & Dessert" party hits headlines, we gathered your comments that show you are embracing the five-decade mark just as she is.
We were curious about this particular milestone as the last of the boomers turn 50 this year.
As our recent blog about Gen X approaching 50 pointed out, every birthday is a chance to reflect back and to look forward. Age 50 holds special significance as an entry into a new phase of life. We can no longer deny that we're mid-life, despite research that suggests we may all soon live to age 120.
But instead of taking the dreaded card that's sure to show up in the mail (you know the one) and grabbing "senior" discounts, our readers are seizing the day and facing the future with a renewed sense of meaning and purpose.
The comments and advice you shared show you're setting goals, embracing challenges, rolling with the punches and loving time spent with friends and family — and that life gets even better after 50.
Try Something New
A key theme that emerged in comments was continued growth and learning as part of becoming 50.
"I had a goal of trying 50 new things," wrote Donna Vigil. "I don't remember if I did them all, but it was fun trying!"
"I committed to take one trip every month during my 50th year, with my birthday month in Paris," wrote reader Kelley Donovan. "Some trips were to nearby small, cute towns that needed digging around in and other trips were with various friends to mutually-agreed upon places. I love that I have that year-long memory."
"My best friend from high school and I both turn 50 later this year and our goal is to walk 50 miles together each month to mark this milestone," wrote Lori Drazien Cowen.
Other adventurers broadened their horizons — and changed their looks. John Miller took a self-funded leave from teaching to travel the world for a year. Shirley Streeter visited Vegas for the first time. And Sue Wright, in addition to touring Hawaii and flying over volcanoes in a helicopter, got a tattoo.
The threshold of a new decade provides a chance to ask: Why not now?
Several readers mentioned that turning 50 provided motivation to meet goals and find fulfillment.
"I'll just be finishing my Masters one month before 50. A long suppressed goal," wrote Marie Arriaga.
"I started to look at what I really wanted to do vs. what I needed to get done," wrote Mary Hayes. "Knocked a few 'not that important' off my list and began the focus on happy."
Reader Shari Jennings was spurred to action by turning 50 and also by receiving a diagnosis of a chronic illness.
"I wanted to make my entire 50th year the best of my life," she wrote. "I work in a hospital and hear so many stories from people who waited too long to do things they want to do, or spent years taking care of someone else and then got diagnosed with a major illness after that person dies."
Jennings decided she wouldn't have such regrets. She saved money and switched her job hours from full-time to on-call status. Then, she said: "I got to work!" Over the course of 15 months she visited Nepal and rode an elephant; went to the French Open; whitewater rafted in Peru and traveled to Antarctica — the highlight.
"I got super lucky," Jennings said. "We had one night to camp there, and it turned out to be the eve of my birthday, so I woke up on Antarctica on my 50th birthday!! That day turned out to be the best day of my life, with a spectacular show put on by a pod of feeding whales for more than 2 hours that afternoon. It was breathtaking."
Terry Thornton, whose husband is six years younger than she is, said the significance of her 50th hadn't dawned on him. "I guess I'll let this birthday pass quietly while I contemplate this next phase of my life and all that it promises to be," she wrote.
Most of our commenters sharing advice said the next phase is pretty great.
"The 50s were fun, and I found the 60's to be even more fun," said Steven Pierce.
"50 was ten years ago for me," wrote Katherine Ryan. "I think the (celebration) options are limited by income. I had a fun decade dating and finally feeling 100 percent free, as I was single. Being this age has given me more confidence."
"My 60s are great," said Arlene Aizer Cohen. "I'm healthier and more fit than ever, I still work but at a less pressured job. And I am very active. I love to travel, bike, cross-country ski, hike or just sit home, read, knit, listen to music — because I can."
"My big FIVE-OH was 21 years ago," said Jan McConnell. "I barely remember any big deal because my life was finally getting on track with a new marriage/family and a great job (finally got to teach at the college level!) I enjoyed that decade, and the next one even more, and just hope that my health, and that of those around me, holds out for at least another decade. I've got a lot more left to do!"