“You’re on top of the hill. Enjoy the view,” was the text I received from my brother on my 50th birthday. I can’t say that I enjoyed every part of the journey to the top of the hill, but certainly my perspective of my ascension to the top of the hill changed as I got closer to the top. In the last year, I have spent a great deal of time dissecting my experiences, my passions, my purpose, and the decisions that will influence the direction I chose to take for the rest of the journey. I stood on the hilltop with a new vantage point. I stood with an excited energy about the successful rise through and above some adverse and challenging situations while simultaneously, feeling an adrenaline rush when I thought about the possibilities to come. Some of my reflective thoughts moved me to tears, some to laughter, and others to dream and hope.
I didn’t realize that joining the 50’s club was a milestone that other folks would really care to help me celebrate. I learned that other folks cared about the fact that for fifty years I consistently lived life and the fact that I did something consistently for fifty years was a milestone was worthy of celebrating. I was pleasantly surprised about the number of text messages, calls, voicemails, and social media posts from friends and family helping me celebrate this milestone and offering encouragement for the rest of my journey. Each message brought with it memories of times shared with the messengers. I was thankful for the outpouring of birthday wishes from family members, childhood friends, neighbors, community partners, coworkers, and others who I may not even have a direct connection.
Reaching the at the top of the hill revealed to me that I am the combination of all of my experiences and all of my memories.
- I remembered when I thought that 50 was old. Now, from this vantage point 50 felt like 30 and 70 another shift of the gears on a scenic road to some place really cool.
- I remembered when I lived in the shadow of some emotionally painful childhood experiences and I couldn’t even dream past the 30’s. On top of the hill, I saw God’s plan for my life extended beyond my challenging and painful circumstances.
- I remembered when I said I wanted to be an interior decorator and my daddy told me “You can’t make no damn money decorating nobody’s house.” On the hilltop, I laughed about marrying a coach whose career moves gave me multiple opportunities to decorate houses. Daddy was right: I didn’t “make no money” decorating houses, but I sure as heck saved us some money.
- I remembered when I was a child wishing that my parents could visit me at school like those moms who volunteered for the school PTA and saying to myself that one day I hoped to be able to visit my own kids at school. On the hilltop, I saw that I had better be careful what I wish for because I ended up a stay-at-home mom for many years watching kid t.v. on the regular. I ended up as a troop mom with a living room full of cookies to sell or deliver while my house was on the market. Imagine asking potential buyers to pretend they didn’t see a thousand boxes stacked to the ceiling in the living room during their house tour.
- I remembered when I turned 30 being pregnant with my second child in an unfamiliar city and feeling afraid when I learned that the new gig came with no benefits. On the hilltop, I see that challenges like that one teach life lessons in humility and compassion.
- I remembered when I turned 40 just wanting a quiet peaceful weekend that wouldn’t break the bank or require lengthy travel. On the hilltop, I smile when I remember my introduction to Lake Geneva.
- I remembered dreaming of what I wanted my kids to do and be. On the hilltop, I see that their lives turned out a whole lot better when I supported them as they discovered the calling on their lives and made decisions consistent with their passions.
- I remembered over the years while I was a stay-at-home people challenged my decision to stay home to raise my kids. On the hilltop, I see that the investment in my kids paid dividends in my relationships with them and that they were my most excellent work product.
- I remembered being asked when I “was gonna get a job that paid money” because, as she said it “every time I talk to you, you volunteering and doing something for free.” On the hilltop, I saw that the success of every village depended on people who did things “for free.” There was no way communities could have afforded to pay for the collective needs of the community and for those little things given to it by the volunteers who were always “doing something for free.”
- I remembered the life insurance salesman who told my husband not to worry about insuring my life because as a stay-at-home mom I didn’t have a job or income to contribute to the household. From the hilltop, I saw that some people really don’t get the value of excellent parenting.
- I remembered when my daddy used to say “How ‘bout making me a half a cup of coffee” and my mother would fill their green thermos every morning in preparation for the thirty mile ride to work. On the hilltop, I realized that it is possible to go from a kid who didn’t like coffee to a coffee snob who would have made my parents proud.
- I remembered when I thought grown ups knew something about everything. On the hilltop, I learned that they don’t, but many of them pretended that they knew more than they did or they deflected so kids wouldn’t know they were human. Some of the best lessons I ever learned as a grown up were taught to me by my kids and the other kids I’ve met along the journey.
- I remembered thinking my mom was weak because she was quiet and soft spoken. On the hilltop, I saw that she was a wise woman who was a good listener and understood that speaking softly made people more attentive if they cared about her voice and the words that might come out of her mouth.
- I remembered Sunday afternoons at Mama Love’s house in the country hanging out with Mama’s siblings and the cousins. On the hilltop, I saw the benefits of fresh country air, playing made up games outside, and having only one room with air conditioning – cleansing breaths, healthy living, and village building.
- I remembered thinking, as a child, that my neighbors were always watching me and telling on me. On the hilltop, I saw that they cared. My neighbors modeled the practices of an excellent village for me and taught me the value of having a sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of the children in my community.
As I stand “on top of the hill,” the fact that some people were villagers for me before I knew I needed a village. I saw that there were people who filled gaps so seamlessly that I didn’t even know what they were doing for me. I learned that excellent villagers throughout my life cared for me and loved me when I didn’t know love was the cure for many things that ailed or haunted me. On my 50th birthday, I remembered some of the relationships that were strained or dissolved with honor and recognition of their role and timing in my journey. I learned that while there are some who liked me and some who tolerated me there are those who wanted me to know they appreciated me and that they wanted blessings and favor to be upon me. On my 50th birthday, I found myself expressing thanksgiving for so many people, experiences, and things. My family helped me check a few boxes with their well-planned weekend of surprises. As I stand “on top of the hill,” I am praying for excellent health, the ability to act with wisdom, the ability to continue to use my gifts to live my passion and calling out loud, and work-life balance for me, my family, my friends, and all who use their gifts to be excellent villagers in their communities.