At 50, What Next?

3  bar steep drop 30.16  0mph  NE  windchill 3  Samhain

Waning Gibbous Moon of Long Nights

My brother Mark asked me my thoughts on turning 50.  This April 11th he has his 50th.  By then it will be, as it always is, twelve years since I had that birthday.

Twelve years ago is a long time and when I first started to answer Carl Jung came up.  He should have, but not in the positive way I had in mind.  I began that piece by reflecting on Jung’s notion of life’s  two halves:  an external, career and family half followed by an interior, reflective and calmer half.  Hmmm.  But that was the upbeat spin.

How Jung came into my turning 50 is less philosophical.  In 1996 I shifted my credentials from the Presybterian church to the Unitarian-Universalist.  In 1997, my 50th year, I had to take an internship to qualify for recognition.  I did.  Unity Church Unitarian (no relation to the Unity movement) in St. Paul and First Unitarian in Minneapolis both offered me internships.

It felt good to be wanted in a professional capacity again.  I had given myself 5 years to make it as a writer (with no real idea what making it meant) and I failed.  No sales.  Not even any bites.  Instead of the romantic I’ll stick with it no matter what I decided to go back to the trade I had learned.  I felt a need to earn money and to have recognition as a skilled and valuable person.

This whole episode was a mistake and a big one.  I crowned it with accepting a position as minister of development at Unity, essentially a fund-raising position.  I hate fund-raising and everything associated with it.  But I said yes because I was asked.  Pretty desparate.

That was how Jung came in.  Early on I could see I’d made a mistake but I needed to understand why.  What did it mean?  My long time analyst John Desteian, a Jungian, and I worked on it.  In the end we decided I had regressed, rather than moved forward.  I had regressed by returning to safe territory.  John said that most regressions occur because we have to go back and pick up something we needed.  In this case I needed to be reminded how much I’d wanted out of the ministry six years before and why full time ministry was a bad fit for me.

It felt wonderful to leave after the fund-raising goal had been met, an increase of 10% over the prior year.  I did it, but I did not want to do it again.

I came home and save for one brief relapse when we needed money I learned my lesson.

What was the lesson?  That the world of work and achievement had come and gone in my life.  Now I needed to pursue life itself.  That did include writing, whether I sold anything or not.  I have not.  It meant I needed to face life as myself, not as a role or job holder.

So, Mark, turning 50 for me meant a need to go back and relearn a lesson I had not grasped completely the first time around.  I don’t know what turning 50 will mean for you.  Perhaps reflecting on the expat life?  Perhaps following some abandoned or long cherised dream?  Maybe you’ll tell the story of South East Asia as only someone of your particular experience can.  Who knows?  I can tell you this.  Pay attention to what happens around this time because it has deep meaning for the rest of your life.

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