When I turned forty I wrote an obnoxious Facebook post about my fabulous and fulfilling life (I hope it wasn’t as bad as I remember and that it never appears in my Facebook memories for me to find out). My children were six and nine, which might be the age of peak parental smugness. Nine and six-year-olds are, as a rule, adorable and brilliant and it’s easy to feel that their awesomeness is all down to you. Things slip quickly from there. While I enjoyed my children’s tween and teen years immensely, they were (and are) also harrowing and fraught. It’s much harder to feel smug about your parenting while screaming at the top of your lungs.
Career-wise, I was also at a peak of sorts, but I didn’t know it at the time. I had left my job in academia recently enough that I could still claim that sliver of legitimacy but I’d also completed a draft of my novel and had started looking for an agent. As I had spent the previous twenty years succeeding in the realm of sociology, I had every expectation that I would spent the next decade proving myself as a fiction writer.
Readers, I was wrong.
When I imagine the pithy summary of life at fifty, different iterations of all I haven’t accomplished come to mind. (That’s not entirely true: I also think a lot about the many things I have accomplished that don’t fit neatly into the definition of that word, but I’ll save those ruminations for a different post) I have not bagged that elusive agent and, while I have written two more novels, I’m not especially hopeful they will ever be read by anyone beyond my few faithful readers.
So what does any of this have to do with swimming?
I want to celebrate the milestone of turning fifty by committing myself to something big (for me) that doesn’t live within the confines of achievement as we usually think about it. I don’t strive to be the fastest or to accomplish an especially long swim (or any particular swim at all). I just want to show up everyday to do this thing that I love.
Swimming is fun. Swimming in cold water is thrilling. Swimming under a bright sun on a warm day in calm water feels like being on vacation and swimming in stormy seas in the middle of winter makes me feel like a badass. There’s really no downside to this challenge and that’s part of what I like about it. Showing up everyday to do something I love is exactly the kind of energy I want to bring to this next decade of my life. I want to spend less time focused on outcomes and more time enjoying the process.