A reflection on 50 years

When the Prince song 1999 came out in 1982, my friends and I loved dancing to it. I was a huge American Bandstand fan, and the moment when he appeared with Dick Clark, I loved all things Prince. Still do. But that song has always haunted me. Because after all the dancing, my most distinct memory of that song as a young girl is that I thought that 1999 seemed so far away. I could not imagine myself being alive when the year 2000 came along. Somehow it just didn’t seem possible that I could live to be 30. I remember rolling it over and over in my mind. It just couldn’t be possible that I would be alive to experience something as important as the century change. I could not fathom that I might have a child or travel to another country, or even buy a house.

But fortunately, I did surpass that little girl’s idea of what seemed too far away and too far-fetched an idea. I am reaching the half-century mark. At this end of this month, I will leave behind a half-century of trial and error, of mistakes, and scars, adventures, love stories, and laughter, and begin the second half of life. So many experiences have piled up in the first fifty years.

A friend of mine once made a timeline of her life. I have often joked about mine, being a random set of screwed up events, which is a bit of a self-put-down. So I thought I’d make my own timeline for this timely 50-year occasion, and throw in a few photos for a jolly good walk down memory lane.

A brief timeline of Kelley on this planet for 50

Importantly, this is not only a look down memory lane. In my yoga class a couple weeks ago, a timely and insightful conversation came up about how what we are doing right now in our lives is laying the groundwork for the next 20 years of our life. As I look at the next 20 years, or the next 50 years, this timeline of the last 50, reminds me that I have laid so much groundwork. There is so much amazingness, so much beauty in my life that the next fifty can only be ‘happily ever after!’

So, my fifth-grade self might not have been able to see herself as a healthy beautiful thirty-year-old woman, but my fifty-year-old self most certainly can see myself as a vibrant and young ninety-year-old woman who can still rock the work like its 1999. To another fifty years of living the meaningful life on the dirt roads!

Me and my Ezzy.
My happily ever after.
My funny and beautiful family.

UPDATE: For the ten days prior to my birthday, I’ve posted this on my Insta Feed. I’m adding the #countdown here for the fun of it:

DAY ONE, Ten Days to 50: My heart. My husband and my son. These two men give me a place, a love and hope, and a reason to be me. When I met each of them, I knew I would be changed. I could have never imagined how much or how beautifully. They are so so much.

DAY TWO, Ten Days to 50: Travel. Travel was never something I considered as a child, but it has become one of the most expansive parts of my life. Not just overseas, but over mountains and under stars. 
I have never allowed myself a bucket list. In the next 50 years, I plan to create that list and experience it. Visit my blog at dirtroadjournal.com for more on this! 💕💕 By the numbers where I’ve been in my first 50: *4 continents *7 Countries *23 states in US *Climbed one 14,000 ft mountain, 4 13,000 ft mountains & and 2 Volcanoes *36 National Parks *Travelled alone *Slept in a treehouse, a lighthouse, on a houseboat, under the stars in forests & on beaches *Swam next to a sea turtle *Walked along Hadrian’s Wall *Shared dinner with strangers and became friends *More dirt roads and trails than I could count.

DAY THREE, Ten Days to 50: Yoga. Yoga is on this list because more than anything else, yoga has been my catalyzing tool for healing self image. Yoga has helped me appreciate my own physical strength, and relax my monkey mind of conspiracies I’ve continued about myself, my physical deficits and ugliness, and not being enough. Yoga has been part of my life since my 20s when I practiced with my sister when we lived in St. Louis. Over years I’ve practiced more or less, but to step on a mat is now an act of coming to me.  Yeah! To being physically strong, and mentally fit.

DAY FOUR, Ten Days to 50: My Career in Development. For most of my adult life, work has defined me. That’s been a burden and a joy. I’ve been a bit of a work-a-alcoholic, a box checker, do gooder. Often at the expense of my own health and others, and that may be an understatement. Life lessons! I’ve been retired from Development for five years, after a twenty-year career that spanned four states and more organizations than I can count. I started six non-profits and didn’t quite reach my goal of raising $100 million, thankfully I let that go. I raised enough. My legacy is quiet-there are trails that exist, health services for people who need them because I made it possible. I love that. Plus, I’ve worked with lovely people from all over the country. It shaped me, broke me, opened my heart and taught me so much. It was truly a good run. Now onto other challenges and life pursuits! 

DAY FIVE, Ten Days to 50: Our House Fire. Being homeless has always been my biggest fear. In my 20s I was often close to homelessness. When our home burned, we were homeless. Each of us dealt with the loss differently. The fears of “what-ifs,” the loss of stuff, the mere hardship of it. But because of dear dear friends, Hope and Eugene, and John, I learned that when my biggest fear comes true, my son, me, my husband, we would be scooped up and cared for. And we were. Huge life lesson and gift in the midst of destruction. This has been on ongoing gift to me.

DAY SIX, Ten Days to 50: Guidance from wise women. I have been so fortunate to have been guided and loved by the wisest women. They have helped me learn to be a strong and kind woman, a mother, a responsible adult. Joyce Schrader, in my 20s, who I have no photos of 😔, taught me about fellowship and worldwide community. She was so beautiful. Tema Sines, all through my 30s and on, has always been the fiercest supporter of me learning how to love and care for myself. And Hope Smith, one of the smartest, kindest and most interesting women I’ve ever met. My son is a better person because of her too. Truly, these women are so kick ass! I am so privileged to have been cared for by them for so many years. So much love❤️❤️❤️

DAY SEVEN, Ten Days to 50: My days at NMSU (Truman State nowadays). When I went to college I became my own person. I went in love and I left out of love. I met girlfriends who still care for me today 💕💕. We created stories that we still laugh about. And I started my life. Truman was the beginning so so much good.

DAY EIGHT, Ten Days to 50: My siblings. I’m the oldest of 6, 22-year span between me and Sean. Being the sibling of a disabled person changes us in the most profound ways. Sean’s death still leaves me open with heart break. Being one of six, whether we are close friends or not, changes a person, and shapes us into who we are. We are all forged from a shared dynamic that offers me perspective on hardship, love, and meaningful life. ❤️❤️❤️

DAY NINE, Ten Days to 50: My parents. Our parents, and our parents’ stories become our own stories when we are kids, even when we aren’t fully aware participants. Pieces are woven into us, and they help create us. My parents were married young. Unplanned teenage pregnancy (me!😊) in a Catholic family, my father back from Vietnam with injury that no one should have to endure. Divorce, religion, and my mother’s second marriage all shaped my own narrative. Their struggles raising a disabled child, managing mental illness and just simply trying to be. They were living their lives, struggling in their worlds too, it has given me a mirror. Life, and it’s weave works that way. I am tenacious, resilient and independent because of my parents and I thank them for this. Everyday. ❤️❤️❤️

DAY TEN, Ten Days to 50: Me. This photo is me on my 40th. Tomorrow I will take one on my 50th. I used to feel like I was too irreverent, too tenacious and too pushy. I said too much and my standards were too high. I have finally let go of all those “toos.” I am not too much by my book.😊 just right.

8 thoughts on “A reflection on 50 years

  1. Paula Collier

    Kelley, in the short few years I’ve known you, I’ve seen you take on a challenge you didn’t have to. You’re an amazing woman with great tenacity which is a good thing. (I’m a little tenacious myself).

    Happy 50th Congratulations! Best Wishes for your Day, and all the adventures yet to come!!

  2. What is interesting to do is to make parallel life lines of one’s grandmother, mother, and self. I did during the transition of 50 years and when complete gave it to my mother.

    1. That’s lovely Brenda. Were there parallels? My grandmother has passed and my mother has Alzheimer’s and is in care, so that is not an option for me, but such a special thing for you. I always love seeing stories like that. Thanks for the comment.

      1. My grandmother had passed when I undertook this project so her lifeline was created from remembered stories. What I found valuable was a valuation that they both were were women with their unique lives as women outside their roles as mother and grandmother.

  3. What a wonderful reflection on your life, your family, and your adventures. Happy belated 50th! I’m so envious you got to see Andy Gibb in concert. As a kid, I used to play an AG 8-track over and over again. It was the only 8-track I ever owned (as cassettes were replacing them), and I treasured it.

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