Okay, technically I was 47 when I began writing Later With Myself: The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz, one year after the story idea smacked me in the face, unwittingly, in the form of learning about my deceased half-brother and the Secret Life of Daddy. But I will be turning 50 in less than two weeks, so I think this warrants a pause, a breath, and a few sage words.

To be quite honest, as recently as several months ago, the prospect of turning 50 was dispiriting to me. It felt as if my life, for all intents and purposes, was over (or at least nearing its inevitable end). What was there to look forward to, really, besides a gradual-but-inevitable loss of looks, vigor, clients, friends? I felt as though I was entering the beginning-of-the-end phase of my life, that there was no avoiding becoming one of society’s “leftovers”—a pitiful scrap of humanity who’d lost all her relevance to unripe youngsters.

But then it hit me: Relevance is a choice. Happiness is a choice. We may not have ultimate control over whether we get to keep our health, our friends, or even our income as we grow older. But we do decide whether to retreat to the perimeter of the dance floor to make room for those more dynamic than ourselves, or stay out there, sweating, no matter how foolish we may appear to some. 

The beauty of turning 50 is that we gain the freedom to be ourselves, speak our minds, and dance to our own unique beat. But we elders must do this not just from a place of wisdom, but from a psychic space of acceptance and satisfaction with all that has preceded our monumental milestone. Otherwise, we become whining curmudgeons whom people may humor, but take no pleasure in being around.

Publishing my first novel at age 49 was not only liberating, but life-affirming. Who knows? Perhaps in 50 more years, I’ll be an acclaimed best-selling author with half-as-many novels under her belt.