TWI Writerly : Turning 50- Looking Back – And Ahead

“Now, I’m approaching 50 and it seems like this might be the time for a check-in.”

By Anusha Shrivastava


That’s the figure which struck me upon reading a birthday card in elementary school: “On every birthday morning, count your age by friends, not years.”

That’s the number which seemed attainable. At the time, I didn’t think about a deadline.

Now, I’m approaching 50 and it seems like this might be the time for a check-in.


It has the convenient feel of a halfway mark. I know I’m not going to be around till I turn 100. Who knows if I’ll even make it to 50? It’s scheduled to happen at the very end of this year but the pandemic has reminded me one can never be sure of these things.


It’s a symbol of sorts so I’m making it the year when I can look back – and ahead. If I were an artist, I might have painted a canvas. As a storyteller, I have the luxury of writing. Of sharing with you that 50 to me feels like a very comfortable age. It gives me the feeling of lowering myself into a bathtub full of warm water, so I can lose myself for just a little bit and savor my next breath.


I can pause here and think about what I’ve felt, done and lived through. My first kiss. My first check. The electric touch of one who loves me. My first byline. Getting a doctorate. Twenty-five years of marriage. My first epidural. Two careers. My first migraine. Two children. Watching my son take his first steps. 9/11. Creating a home for my family in multiple cities and countries. A kidney stone. Travel. Work with a non-profit. Enabling those around me. Watching my daughter become the athlete I never was. Storms and blackouts. Laughing when my doctor said my period is “like the little engine that could” – it just keeps chugging along! 


I’ve been preparing for this age without actually marking the date on my calendar. In the lead up to this year, I made a more concerted effort to do the things I used to enjoy before the business of life engulfed me and commandeered each minute of my day. I took dance lessons. I picked up a paintbrush. I also decided to try out what I had not: I enrolled in yoga classes. I have a list of things I want to do next and this year seems to be about the right time to launch.


In the run-up to it, I realized it was high time I stopped being the always-polite person. When a neighbor was rude to me, at first I wasn’t quite sure how to react. Then, I walked up to him and said in an even tone: “You owe me an apology.” He looked at me as if I had a plant growing out of my head! Even so, possibly scared I’d create a scene, he apologized. My 40-year old self might have let it pass. Now, I feel too old to be treated in a fashion I find objectionable. 


What I am truly comfortable with at this age is being in my skin. For as long as I can remember, I have been aware that there will always be people richer, better-looking and thinner than me. I am also aware there are people who are not as well off or healthy as me. So, I feel no desire to be like anyone else. I want to build on what I have. Relationships and friendships.


That’s the number of friends I once thought I should have. People I can rely on and reach out to when I need advice, love and a laugh. I’ll provide the same, so we can solve problems together. What this entails is being proactive in connecting with people and sustaining the bonds. Everyone wants to be connected but very few people want to make the effort to find ways to do so. “Connectivity is cheap but connecting is not,” said a wise person.


If I now sit down to make a list of 50 friends and find I already have more than that number, then I’ve already missed that notional 50th marker. If not, then I have a goal and I’d better get started.

A storyteller by choice, Anusha Shrivastava’s first career was as a business journalist across three countries, including India. Her most recent stint as a full time journalist was as a credit markets reporter with The Wall Street Journal in New York City. For the past seven years, she has been a career development professional at Columbia University in New York. She graduated with an MS from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2002. She also has a doctorate in International Relations from the School of International Studies at JNU in New Delhi. She has raised two children with her husband in a suburb of New York and enjoys blogging and yoga.

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