Shamillah Wilson

Reflections on how time changes us

I am writing this blog a few days before my 50th. As I pause to celebrate this exciting and significant milestone, I do so knowing that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. While I am filled with excitement, I also acknowledge my anxieties about aging and the changes I have already noticed in my physical, mental and emotional states. Applying the chronological age number of 50 to me has been a process and I believe it will continue to be so over time.

Nonetheless, this moment itself signals a shift or a change to a different phase of my life and how I move through the world. Over the last few months, I have been thinking about what this moment or milestone actually means. Not what everybody else tells me it means, but rather what it means to me.

One of the things I have realised is that the me I see when I look at myself now, is not the person that just woke up changed or transformed. The changes I am able to notice now are as a result of the multitude of experiences I have had; some joyful, some painful, and others that have challenged or stretched me in ways that have left their indelible mark on my ways of being in the world.

When I look at myself now, at the age of 50, this is what I notice:

1: Self acceptance

What is most striking to me about this moment in my life is that I notice this deep acceptance of myself. This acceptance includes embracing the parts of me that live in the light, as well as those parts that lurk in the shadows. It also means that the ways in which I communicate with myself are honest because I am not afraid to acknowledge what shows up when I engage in the process of self enquiry.

2: Deep trust in myself and my talents

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts at this moment in my life is a deep trust in myself and my talents. I know for sure that I am good at what I do and that wherever I go, I add value. No longer do I look to others to affirm or validate what I have to offer as I am able to do that for myself. Of course positive feedback will always be welcome, but it is no longer the fuel I need to feel valued or worthy. This deep sense of confidence in my abilities has allowed me to experience immense joy in my work and in my collaborations with others.

3: Loving myself just the way I am

I have also noticed that I am a lot more comfortable in my body. When I look at a picture of myself in my 30’s I can only think: “wow I looked so good”, but why was I also so insecure? When I look at myself now, I can honestly say I love myself much more than I did 20 years ago. It took a lot of work to get here!

4: Doing more of what I like and love

Over the years, my time was spent on work, family, friends and the many projects I was involved in at the community level, which left very little time for me. However, I have learnt to make time that is just about me, to do absolutely nothing or to do more of what I love. Whether it is to pursue different activities, taking care of my health or simply binge-watching a season of my favourite drama, it is worth it because it allows me to fill up my tank and also deepen the connection I have with myself. This has included learning to ride a bike, going for cooking classes, dancing, and more dancing. What it has also meant is that I have had to say NO more, and to be discerning as I make choices about how I spend my precious time.

5: Being kinder to myself (no more hiding!)

Perhaps the most profound gift of 50 is that I am kinder to myself. The very grace I extend to others, I extend to myself. I have learnt to work with my inner critic, that thinks it is protecting me but is actually keeping me in hiding. I have learnt to notice those moments of self criticism and to interrupt them. When I do this, I insert grace into any situation by simply taking a breath, and grounding myself by placing my feet on the floor, and just connect to my inner knowing and kinder self. This practice has meant that I am braver – even when I don’t want to be brave – and I accept that about myself too. I have learnt that the greatest kindness to myself is to pause more often and enjoy the ride.

6: Cherish connections that fill up your tank

I have learnt to embrace the fact that I simply don’t have time to spend my precious energy on the wrong people. For me, this means I want to spend time with people who fill up my emotional and spiritual tank and give me energy (and I will do the same for them). Because of this I find my friendships have really deepened over the years. Now I find it much easier to be a guardian over my own time and spend it with those I feel a deep connection with, provide me with a sense of community, and also who bring joy and laughter into my world.

In conclusion, I am deeply grateful for this moment where I am able to acknowledge the ways in which the last 50 years of my life has changed me. They have given me a sound footing to continue adventuring into the future with deeper confidence.