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Embracing Vulnerability In Midlife: My Quest For An Authentic Adulthood

Embracing vulnerability in midlife

Last week I time-traveled back to middle school. But instead of dodging spitballs and navigating the lunchroom, I felt like an outsider in my social circle.

Remember those days of girl-clique drama? At least this less-than-nostalgic trip back to the awkward corridors of adolescence provided a rare and welcomed moment of relief, appreciating that I’ve moved beyond that age.

Despite not being physically present in middle school, my understanding that the universe doesn’t revolve around me is occasionally challenged. Since I travel extensively, often vanishing for over a month at a time, I understand it’s unrealistic to expect my world to stand still in my absence. Apparently, my understanding doesn’t completely prevent utter moments of embarrassment. Now, in a phase of life where I question if I’m too old for certain things, it’s hard to learn I’m not too old to experience the insecurities reminiscent of a bumbling middle schooler.

Finding Myself In A Yucky-Tummy-Feelings Moment:

I finally reached the threshold where maintaining appearances at the expense of yucky-tummy-feelings is no longer a worthwhile endeavor.”

Over the years, I orchestrated opportunities for a couple of my friends to meet and spend time together. Knowing them both so well, I knew they’d enjoy one another. Recently, I played Cupid and brought them together on an adventure. I genuinely wanted them to like each other, or so I thought.

But when I learned they were planning an event without me, Jealousy hit hard. It wasn’t sophisticated Envy; it was a raw ‘I don’t want you to have fun without me’ feeling. I felt left out, and it stung. Spontaneously, my frontal lobe raced its way to a guilt trip, reprimanding me for these immature and selfish feelings. What a mess.

It’s worth noting that historically, I’ve been the master of pushing these emotions under the rug. Insecurity? No, thank you. Weakness? Not in my vocabulary. Pettiness? Certainly not. And don’t even get me started on the dreaded ‘Vulnerability.’ I spent years perfecting the art of appearing strong, unbothered, and impervious to these messy feelings.

However, life has a way of throwing curveballs, prompting me to break the cycle this time. Like so many of us in midlife, I finally reached the threshold where maintaining appearances at the expense of yucky-tummy-feelings is no longer a worthwhile endeavor.  Instead of bottling up these emotions, I chose to share them with my friends. Like most first efforts, this was no grand ‘Prom Proposal’ moment; it was an awkward admission.

Embracing Vulnerability In Midlife:

So, I opened up to my friends. I didn’t pretend to be okay. Well, not initially. This was uncharted territory for me, and the execution lacked any grace or elegance. At first, I claimed it was okay, then rewound and changed my stance. The subsequent explanations were way more than I bargained for, each conversation a reminder of the discomfort and insecurity I was trying desperately to escape. Each proclamation and retraction adding an element of “Why the F did I decide to try this so late in life? It wasn’t that broken, was it?”.

And like with most learnings in life, a new journey begins.”

Now, post all the spills and stumbles, I am grateful for my choice. Sharing my vulnerability brought a strange sense of liberation amid the mess. Despite the discomfort, I allowed myself to be seen in a way I hadn’t permitted before – a departure from the carefully crafted image of strength and independence. And like with most learnings in life, a new journey begins. Learning to tune into the yucky-tummy-feeling early and stating my truth, clearly, does not come easily. At least not yet. 

Just as I once faced the challenges of adolescence and emerged stronger, I recognize that embracing vulnerability is a continuous process. The awkward corridors of midlife may present their own set of insecurities, but by acknowledging and sharing my feelings, I have taken a significant step towards authenticity. And I discovered yet another thing I’m not too old for…. self-discovery. 

Note: While I may be shaky on the embracing vulnerability in midlife front, at least my instincts were spot on – my friends did like one another.

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