I turned 50 this past February. When I turned 30 I remember thinking in twenty years I wanted to do something very special for my 50th birthday. Quietly, secretively I opened a savings account and saved a little bit of money every week. I told no one, in fact…I’m outing myself right now…no one knew until this moment other than that particular bank. It wasn’t a lot of money that I saved each week but it was consistent and over twenty years it added up.
During most of those years I was happily married to my best friend, my first and only love and the person who I trusted unequivocally and without question. My gift to us for my 50th birthday was going to be a surprise, pre-paid trip to somewhere special. It was almost impossible not to share my plans, but in my mind the day I unveiled the surprise would be worth it and I anticipated and dreamed about that day.
It never came. I didn’t know then that my financial advisor husband was embezzling my investments but over time my myopic blinders eroded and I was finally, mercifully awakened to the reality that he had taken everything. If Bob had said the world was flat, I would have agreed. I’m not sure a bat could be anymore blind. But as the saying goes, I was blind but now I see. He took every penny I ever saved, every penny I ever invested, every bit of money…
Except my secret savings account.
The surprise in the making, the secret that I had almost blown hundreds of times. He never knew about my secret savings account and ultimately it was the only account he didn’t drain. To explain the heart-crushing, mind-blowing realization as a rude awakening would be a vast understatement. But people have survived worse and perspective is everything and yada, yada, yada…he can’t hurt me anymore.
As I turned 49 and 1/2, I began to consider the birthday that I had been saving money twenty years to celebrate. I’m not sure why I placed a strong emphasis on turning 50 but I did. I wasn’t sad or depressed or (obviously) concerned about people knowing my age…I was excited! I suppose I know I’m not going to live 50 additional years and I was approaching more than the halfway point. I considered holding onto that secret savings account to help fund my upcoming move to Austin but I believed I deserved more and it seemed like one more cruel punch to the gut to not enjoy what I had secretly saved for. In fact, not doing something special seemed like one of the worst options ever. I’ve saved this money for twenty years to go on a trip…why would I not?
So instead of conservatively saving that money for a just-in-case, sky-is-falling catastrophe (my proverbial sky had already fallen); I took the trip of my dreams. I traveled halfway around the world to Thailand and celebrated turning 50 as if I was the first person to ever do so. I hiked, I meditated, I shopped and spent time in cities, rain forests, bamboo forests and rubber tree valleys. I met wonderful people and spent so much time staring in awe at the ornate temples, I had bloody, scraped knees the first week from falling and tripping as I looked up instead of where I was walking. I met a couple from France who will be visiting Austin soon and a man in Chiang Mai who gave me a protective amulet that I continue to carry. I enjoyed daily massages at a ridiculously affordable price and I immersed my feet in a tank of fish that proceeded to nibble off the dead skin. And for one week I joined up with a group of folks riding bikes through northern Thailand; which is when I met Sara.
There is something about Sara…
Less than half my age, perhaps Sara was acting much older and me being on vacation, perhaps I was acting much younger. Perhaps she and I hit it off because we met in the middle. Perhaps.
I met wonderful, open-hearted people on that bike trip. I’m in touch with a number of them today…one who lives in Bhutan and another who is planning a rendezvous in Maine next summer. We rode bikes, we suffered up hills, we cruised down hills, we splashed mud and dirt, we visited hill tribes and took a cooking class. We ate amazing food and took in stunning sights. We rode on the top of a small bus at night looking at the stars and grand statues of Buddha’s carved into mountainsides lit for display. We offered alms to Buddhist Monks at dawn and we rode, petted and got to know elephants at a rescue camp. We played impromptu volleyball in the pool and one evening after a few shots of Tequila, turned a Singha beer bottle into a tell-all microphone. New friends were always included, but the constant was Sara. She and I had a bond; easy, unexplainable and simply accepted and why would we not?
The youngest and one of the oldest…we naturally rode the same pace on the bikes and spent a great deal of time talking about everything and nothing. Cat poop coffee and corporate America. What it’s like to be a research analyst and what it’s like to be really hung-over. Despite her best efforts to teach me, I failed miserably at saying, “how YOU doin'” like a native New Yorker. We talked about boys, relationships and enjoyed an emerging addiction to the “special” energy drinks that are legal in Thailand (and not anywhere else).
One afternoon having reached our destination a bit early, we ventured off to find elephants lumbering peacefully and free, discovering that the size of elephant poop is indeed in direct proportion to the size of the elephant and enjoying one of those ‘being in the moment moments’. As we sat on the edge of the Mekong river that separates Thailand from Myanmar it occurred to me that we were both sitting on the edge of colossal change in our lives; we were so different yet remarkably the same.
I was in Thailand to celebrate turning 50, knowing my life was about to change as I moved from the cold, yet familiar landscape of Maine, to the unknown of Austin, Texas and Sara, celebrating her graduation from college prior to starting a kick-ass job in Manhattan’s financial district, a fantastic job with great opportunities yet pending pressures and responsibilities to which she had not yet been introduced.
We enjoyed being in the moment, why would we not?
Fast forward six months and each day I put on the handmade, silver elephant bracelet I bought in Thailand as I prepare to go to work at my new job in my new hometown and I am reminded of that trip. A couple of weeks ago I received a message from Sara: “when are you gonna blog about me?”…and I laughed.
Of course I will blog about you. Why would I not?
Was Sara acting much older on that trip? Was I acting much younger? Did we meet in the middle because of that? No, not at all. Sara was being Sara. Haven was being Haven. And age, experience or maturity levels had nothing to do with it. Sometimes we get lucky enough in life to meet kindred spirits and when we do, we need to hold on. We don’t question it, we simply accept it and if we’re smart…we’re grateful. And I am.
I’ll always remember how I chose to celebrate turning 50 and I’m pretty sure Sara will always remember how she chose to celebrate her entry into adulthood. And if we ever forget…I’m sure we can find a bottle of Singha tell-all microphone beer to help remind us. Why would we not?
Thanks for reading,
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