A lot of us midlife women feel like there isn’t a lot to celebrate once we’re over 40 but for me, the opposite is true. Midlife for me has been a rebirth in so many ways including confidence, career development, and financial security. My personal success has come at a price though. Career development takes work! Years of it, almost to the exclusion of everything else and yes now that I’ve got to where I’m going I can afford all the things I have ever dreamed of and have the confidence to stride into almost any situation and hold my head up.
Over the years my financial comfort has meant that Christmas has become a very lavish affair. I am one of ‘those’ women whose homes are immaculately dressed from the 1st December, food ordered and family organised with almost military precision, however, a recent health scare properly came and knocked me off my perch and meant that I had to re-evaluate. Suddenly I was left reeling with the fragility of life. One minute you’re up…the next, well, you’re staring into the abyss not knowing where you may end up.
Fortunately for me, I have recovered relatively quickly but I have to be honest and say that the experience has shaken me to the core. I have been left a bit like a reverse Scrooge pondering the meaning of life and questioning the ethics of my indulgent lifestyle. I was left with the eternal question: “Ok, what next?”
The answer came one day from a contact of mine in the most modern way; via Instagram. She asked if I would like to help with a charity that organises Christmas Day Dinners for young people who have left the care system and without any friends or family to go to, would otherwise find themselves alone on Christmas Day. It was a no brainer, and seized the opportunity to atone for my mindless consumerism as a drowning man clings to a piece of driftwood.
I did not know what to expect and my family was certainly surprised that I was giving up my very special Christmas Day in order to wait on a group of perfect strangers. My husband said I would hate it, and placed a wager that I would not last the day. How wrong he was!
It was the most perfect, most fun, most rewarding thing I have ever done and I am now completely hooked. This year, I have been part of the steering committee and we have raised funds, courted the press and badgered local businesses to contribute to a day which shows isolated young people that there is good in the world. I have called in favours from just about everyone I know and used my influence and contacts built up over many years to help create a magical experience for our guests. I’m not sure that my younger self would have had the compassion, confidence or the skills to achieve what I have for this very worthy cause.
If you have been thinking about volunteering at Christmas or at any other time, I would heartily recommend it. There are currently 168,000 registered charities in the UK all crying out for support. Midlife is a great time to get involved and it has been a complete epiphany for me not least that it reduced my spending, the amount of waste we produce as a family and it has also been a wonderful example to my own teenage daughter who also wants to get involved. Honestly, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Just do it!