Half-Way: On Turning 50

Half-Way: On Turning 50 - by Jennifer Gilhool, Gender Economics Lab

by Jennifer Gilhool - Gender Economics Lab —

Whether you are a sports fan or just a casual observer, you likely are familiar with the concept of “half-time”. That point in the game when the coaches and players take stock of the first half of the game and adjust their game plan for the second half to improve their chances of victory. I am literally hours from my own “half-time” in a life that I could not have imagined when it first began.

On Saturday, I will turn 50-years old. Yes, I’m assuming a life of 100-years. There is ample evidence to support my hypothesis. My grandparents lived healthy and active lives into their 90s and my own parents are living health and active lives in their late 70s. I’ve taken relatively good care of myself and had access to high quality health care for my entire 50-years. I’m privileged.

As I reflect on the first half of my game, I am struck by the number of mistakes that immediately come to mind. I am grateful for most of them. In terms of volume, I have made more mistakes and failed far more often than I have succeeded. And, I’ve failed on a pretty grand scale too.

Perhaps the most troubling of my mistakes is the one many women make – not trusting themselves, their instincts, their capabilities. I made this mistake repeatedly. The most impactful undertaking of this mistake was the decision to leave my law practice and join an in-house counsel practice with a large corporation. This mistake was life changing.

Because of this mistake, I had opportunities that I could never have imagined for myself or my family. This mistake took me around the world and on a journey of self-discovery that continues to this day. My children – two of whom were not born when I made this mistake –  both enjoy and suffer the consequences of this mistake.

Other mistakes continue to play out their story in my life and the lives touched by my mistakes. Whether those mistakes will be judged as good or misfortunes, I don’t know. 

I have learned that no matter how much planning I might do, the game plays out according to its own plan. My role is to react, adjust, and, when possible – if not always advisable – intercede proactively. It is true that every action has a reaction. The game is constantly changing. 

There have been accomplishments along the way. Small in scale when compared to the mistakes. But, then, at the half way mark, one cannot truly judge the outcome. The victor is still undetermined. Much can change in the second half. And, this of course, raises the question, “What is victory?”

That is the wisdom that comes with reaching “the turn”. Asking the question is far more important than the answer.  Whatever victory is or isn’t won’t really be known until the very end of the game. The answer will come only if the questions are asked, answered, discarded and asked again. Wisdom lies in the mistakes. In the curiosity that springs from those mistakes. And, the spider’s web of chaos that becomes life’s beauty. 

My career – like my life – has been more like a jungle gym than a ladder. To get ahead, I’ve gone backward, moved laterally, and climbed up. Eventually, I just let go. Was that defeat?  Or, victory?

At the half-way mark, I find myself with more questions than answers. More disappointment than rejoicing. And, still, I believe that the mistakes – the disappointments – that I see in my past are the roots of future joy. I just don’t know it yet. 

I’ve decided to embrace turning 50 with joy and optimism. I intend to make every day of this year purposeful. To embrace the mistakes of the first half-century so that I can enjoy their gifts in the second half-century.

Happy Birthday to me.

Jennifer Gilhool is a self-described recovering anxiety-ridden workaholic. She is also the Founder of the Gender Economics Lab, an attorney, former Fortune 50 executive, author, and speaker.

Jennifer Gilhool is the founder of Gender Economics Lab, a professional, focused thought leading coaching and consulting practice that cuts through popular myths about gender in the workplace. GEL distinguishes its solutions by assuring both male and female workers that smart gender literacy rewards participants with career growth and rewards companies with higher margins. GEL goes far beyond compliance issues to deliver business value for all stakeholders. Learn more at www.gendereconomicslab.com

1 comment

  • Awesome Jennifer… LOVE this… “the spider’s web of chaos that becomes life’s beauty…”

    It actually reflects some fundamental Buddhist teachings… Life is hard, happiness is fleeting, this too shall pass… And we should celebrate often!!! Rock on! I hope to know you when I am 51. I can’t look much further than that… and I am fine with it… :-)

    Lawler Kang

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