If you are reading this and can’t believe this girl writing to you is going to be 45, join the club. Most days, I feel like I’m still the anxious 21, 22, 23 year old that jet-setted cross country in my brand new corporate job, super eager but lacking much experience. Here’s a clue…..that feeling of “am I good enough?” is one we will wrestle with every day of our life. At 45 I’m finally convinced of that and it’s mostly what keeps me jumping in the ring and facing fears every day.

For all of you 20 and 30 somethings out there, let me start by saying the 40s are legitimately the new 20s (with a slower recovery from late nights).

As I turn 45 this weekend, I’m teetering on that sharp edge of dreading the turn towards 50 and embracing the wisdom and freedom that comes with no longer caring what everyone thinks. My weak and vulnerable brain could fall either way depending on how well I’ve paid attention to my self-care, exercise, and diet to keep me in a positive place.

I’ve found a lot of me but there’s also still a lot to be discovered. As I’m “on my way to 50″, I’m also married to an even closer to a 50-year-old man. Honestly, with zero disrespect to my stud-muffin firefighter husband, I just don’t feel like I’m old enough to be married to someone who’s almost 50. 45 pushes me out of the “middle age” feel and into the “heading towards empty nester” season…..which is a mere 6.5 years away.

I hope this processing is as therapeutic for you as it is for me. The annual birthday blog always jumps out of nowhere in my brain and surprises me.

What is it about birthdays that makes me so introspective? Doesn’t matter. Here we go again.

Let me try to make this worth your while. Because serving women through my creative efforts is my opus in life. I spent a lot of time figuring that out in my early 40s and it couldn’t be more on point. No matter what I’m doing, I’ll be happy if I’m creating and serving, and especially serving women.

For those who aren’t to the 40’s yet, I encourage you to set a 42-year-old goal. That was an age that always stood out to me as “if you are doing this by 42, you’ve made it.” Whatever the heck ‘made it’ means to you.

My 42-year-old age milestone came from watching a new CEO take that title in my corporate world at age 42. It was my first realization that he seemed so young (to me in my 30’s) and that it IS possible for big accomplishments in the next few years. 

From a young age, like 15 or 16, I always had this vision that somehow I would be a CEO of a non-profit. It fully embodied my business brain and my heart’s desire to serve. I just wanted to DO GOOD in the world and wanted to build and lead something that would do so….instead of using my talents to simply line the pockets of another wealthy shareholder.

Honestly, I can’t tell you that I wrote that down, visualized it every day and made it happen. (Like all those 3 steps to your dream career blog posts tell you) It all sort of fell into place and when I started blogging at FirefighterWife.com in 2012, this was NOT where I expected to end up. I thought that blog would help me expand my web development business. Which it did, but what a wild ride now as 24-7 COMMITMENT, a national non-profit reaching millions coast-to-coast each month is changing lives. It’s the HARDEST, most important work I’ve ever done (next to marriage and parenting).

So here comes the “old lady wisdom” from this girl on the downhill slide to 50.

If you are in your 20s: LEARN. Get out there and get experiences. Work under a mentor who cares and helps develop your skills. And don’t let go of those dreams that you have no clue how you’re going to make happen. If you find yourself in a place that feels further away from those dreams and sucks your soul, get out and run fast. There’s so much more flexibility to pivot in your 20s before mortgages and babies.

If you are in your 30s: know that these are the WORKHORSE years as my husband and I call them. You are likely in high maintenance parenting zone and these are the core work years for putting away bank for retirement at the same time. Stay FOCUSED. Take time to play. Watch the seeds you are planting turn into a harvest. That blink of an eye thing with kids goes so fast (says the mom of a senior who was just a 3 lb preemie last week.)

If you are in your 40s: well, let’s not give up together ok? My face may not be the clear, smooth, shiny face that lights up facebook lives, but we can hide that video view (or make it tiny in the corner with a special diva light filter) and still drop mega wisdom on a screen share video ok? I’m only right here with you but I have a feeling that we’ve only just begun.

This year I lost my father who was 70 years and 8 days old when he passed after an aggressive 10 week battle with brain cancer that first took his mental clarity before it took his life. And when I think of all the amazing stuff my father accomplished between age 45 and 70, I realize we still have 2 maybe 3 or 4 full cycles of amazing work ahead of us!

If you are in your 50s or 60s or more and reading this, can I ask you to step alongside me and others like me as mentors and friends?

Judging from my 45 years here on this earth, there seems to be a great gap, especially in female mentorship.

In fact, when I was in my 43rd year (right after that spectacular 42nd year), I experienced a deep valley of grief and loneliness feeling like I was running this business and life race solo. Where were the women who had gone before me? I thought I had found a couple in my space only to be burned and used up. People I trusted as friends and confidantes who in the end, only wanted a piece of the pie and some of the glory. Which I’m happy to share because I’m really not about the glory….. but there’s this thing about givers and takers in friendship and I had started attracting a TON of takers.

It hurt badly.

I thought they were friends but there were qualifications around that friendship and manipulative efforts. I vowed to not let that experience cause me to hide my core values of transparency, openness and giving towards others, but to simply be more aware of the motives of others as I enter into business relationship with them.  And the internet can disguise a whole lot of stuff.  Someone who “appears” to have it all together and is “coaching” women, but has a houseful of disgruntled teenagers running away and doing drugs, maybe isn’t the person to take parenting advice from.  I’ve realized some people are so blinded by their own hurts and emotional baggage, they can’t see your situation with enough objectiveness to speak truth into your life.   They are speaking through their own -isms.   Be careful who you are taking advice from is the short way to say that.   (and as one who mentors women, I find myself being so cautious that the words I speak are not slanted by my limited views in places where I have my own -isms.)

So back to the 50s and 60s, from what I see now, women older than me who appears to possibly be a mentor, are struggling too. Their marriages are hard too. Their teenage and grown children are facing challenges too. Their business isn’t always running optimally. And the pressure feels a little stronger as the “workhorse” days are shorter on our bodies.

What’s sitting on my brain now at age 45 and heading into my 50s?

This phrase is on a post it on my bathroom sink that I scribbled while listening to a podcast one morning (#neverstoplearning)

“How will I make the next level of contribution?”

How will I give back and serve into these spaces in my heart? As a mom to my teens? As a wife to an almost 50-year-old man who could retire from the job of his dreams in as few as 6 years? To my Firefighter wives. Mom’s in corporate. Exhausted entrepreneurs who just want me to fix all that internet ninja magic for them.

May this 45th birthday milestone inspire you to think about your next level of contribution no matter what season or decade you are facing now.

And if your jaw dropped hearing that I’m 45, thank you.  It feels surreal to me each year as I age.   I still feel like I’m in my 20s and wonder if I’m really “old enough to adult like a 45 year old”.   

I want to feel Forever 21 and young at heart, even as the beautiful streaks of silver, my mom and grandma share are starting to grow at a faster rate. I predict, maybe insist, that silver will be the new purple by the time I’m 52.

And for those who want to “be like Lori when they grow up” which entirely cracks me up everytime I hear it, these are all my best free resources to change the world virtually from your home office.

But a word of caution, you may end up CEO of a national movement and wonder who gave you the keys to this important mission?   (Praise God who is always good.)

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