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Insights from envy
Thoughts on ageing, envy and living in the in-between
Here’s a feeling I recall from the old blogging days: reading a post and wondering why I’m even bothering when there’s someone out there writing like that. So achingly accurate. So gorgeously insightful and raw but-not-too-raw. So relatable, the golden ticket in the online sharing world. I can’t remember the last time I felt that pang of envy over someone’s words. I’ve gotten used to reading in teeny tiny chunks on my phone and it appears scrolling has stopped me going too deep — no surprises there. Now I’m on Substack I’m reading longform posts again and it’s cracking me open to envy, and I know this is a good thing.
Envy is a phenomenal gauge for figuring out where to steer your ship. While jealousy feels a bit spiteful and poor-me, envy strikes a more resonant note. It’s like a reflection in the mirror of a life I could maybe have if I’m bold enough to claim it. Feeling an ache while reading someone’s insightful words reflects my desire to be writing insightful words. To be sharing the discoveries I carry inside me. I journal most days and I’ve written thousands of words for courses, but lately there’s been very little public sharing.
But there was another pang inside the original envy — a sub-pang, if you will. The writer of those words was in her early 30s and the pang I felt is much more complicated. Or maybe it isn’t. I turn 50 in eight months and I’m doing a lot of soulful unravelling1 as I edge closer to this milestone. Hand on my heart I have no desire to be 30 again. My thirties were complicated and filled with bereavement, healing and the kind of personal growth that changes you completely. They were important and necessary and I’m glad they are done.
When I turned 40 I knew it was an upleveling. I could feel it. My first book had just been published, I’d moved back to London and my business was growing organically. Those are external markers of success and they were lovely, but the best bit has been how I’ve grown into myself in this decade. I feel confidently thoroughly ME. The last few years of inner child work — revisited as I traverse perimenopause, interestingly — have brought me full circle. I feel a completeness, a wholeness, that I treasure. I genuinely like myself — what a joy to be able to write that and mean it.
So if turning 40 felt empowering, surely turning 50 is even better? What’s the pang really about?
39 to 40 didn’t feel like such a big jump, but 49 to 50 feels like a New Category. It’s the one where everyone around me is noticeably ageing too. I’m feeling the effects of getting older in my body in ways I haven’t experienced before. I’m considering where I want to be when I retire, if I even can retire what-is-this-job-i-have-anyway? I’m watching family members get older and I’m hearing about family friends dying.
It’s midlife, isn’t it.
I’ve been here for a while but 50 makes it sound official. I’m not remotely young enough to be the ingenue but not yet old enough to go full crone (although I can’t bloody wait for that). It’s the shapeshifting in-between. And as I’m living through an in-between right now, I feel the ground shifting beneath my feet. Change is coming and it’s not just my birthday.
My midlife is not what society tells me it should be. There’s no marriage to leave and no empty nest to be had, for I have neither husband nor kids. I have not walked the expected path so I’m grateful to have friends whose life mirrors my own. Our midlife looks different just as our retirement will too, but that doesn’t mean we get to skip the disorientation of ageing when we still feel… I was going to type “so young” but it’s not that. Perhaps it’s just that midlife seemed so different for my parents generation. Or perhaps that’s how my young eyes perceived it.
As a teen all I wanted was to be grown-up because grown-up meant independence. It was knowing more, having more, being more. Grown-up was bigger and better. I could write more about how the patriarchy’s view of ageing women is impacting me — I came of age in the 90s being spoon-fed the Beauty Myth — but for now I’ll end with this: I want my 50s to be defined by grace. I know the source of my power and with every year I’m fortunate to live, I DO get bigger and better. Teen me was right all along.
In my world unravelling is not a negative thing ❤️