Yes, I am celebrating the big “Five Zero.” (Happy birthday to me!)

And I noticed some big changes. It’s like a voice inside me said, “This is your time! Go for it!”

Plans, dreams, hopes, and ambitions that I’ve put on hold for so long—now is the time to put them into action.

What changed when I turned 50? Well, a few things.

  1. I stopped asking for permission. Someone I know grew up in a house with very strict rules about asking before taking food from the refrigerator. Finally, when he was 15 or so, an older brother told him, “You know, you don’t have to ask for permission anymore.” I feel the same way now—not about the refrigerator but about life in general. I can stop asking for permission. If I have a goal or a dream, it’s up to me to put it into action. I can stop waiting for people to ask me or invite me to do the things I know I can do. I don’t need them to ask me to become part of their vision; I can create my own. If I spot a need, I can take the initiative. And if someone doesn’t like it, doesn’t want it, or doesn’t agree with it, I can find the people who share my values and appreciate what I have to offer.
  2. I stopped being afraid. There is so much less to be afraid of in life after you turn 50. So many of the things we will experience in life have already been set. Will I ever get married? Have children? Have a decent job? Buy a house? We already know the answers to these questions, for better or for worse. (May we all experience only revealed blessings and good news.) I am fortunate and blessed to have many good years behind me (and many more in the future, with G‑d’s help). I’ve had my share of struggles and heartache, but I also know that things get better. I am no longer afraid of failure. I have failed in life, many times. But I’ve learned that I can pick myself up and keep on going. I look forward to the next phase of my life when I can share more of what I’ve learned and continue to grow.
  3. I have a whole tribe behind me. In my 20s and 30s (and well into my 40s), I was raising young children, and it was an uphill battle all the way. But now that I’m 50, I’ve finally reached the peak of that mountain. And I can say sincerely that the view is breathtaking! All those goals, dreams, and ambitions—now I have a whole crew of wonderful people that I raised to cheer me on. Not only that, but they have a full complement of talents and abilities that they generously share to help me put my dreams into action.

While it took me till midlife, these are all important things for all of us. We need not wait until our 50th birthday to take the initiative. No one needs to ask permission to pursue their dreams and goals, and we can all work on not being afraid of failure.

My purpose in writing this is not to boast about the great life I’ve had. I lived for many years steeped in negative thoughts, not thinking I was worth much or could achieve much. And now, as a gift from Above, the veil was lifted, and I am able to finally see and appreciate the abundant goodness in my life. I am able to feel the power that was in me all along.

My birthday falls on the Ninth of Av, the Jewish day of mourning. Chassidic tradition has always been to downplay the negative aspects of the day, and instead focus on a message of hope and transformation. The seven weeks following the 9th of Av until Rosh Hashanah are called the shiva d’nechemta, the “seven weeks of consolation,” and each Shabbat we read a Haftorah with some of the most beautiful, inspirational prophecies of the promised Redemption.

“I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and make them rejoice from their sorrow,” we read in Jeremiah.1 When Moshiach comes, our days of mourning will be transformed into holidays,2 and we will know joy in proportion to our pain.

According to the Midrash, the day of destruction—the 9th of Av—is also the birthday of Moshiach.3 Chassidic teachings explain that G‑d planted the seeds of redemption in the first moments of exile.4

The Hebrew terms for exile (golah) and redemption (geulah) are nearly identical, distinguished only by the presence of the letter alef, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The alef, symbolizing the unity of G‑d, holds the key to transforming our state of exile into one of redemption.

To transition from golah to geulah, we need to infuse our current reality with the alef of Divine unity. In the era of redemption, our external circumstances and lives may not change all that much. Our perception, however, will undergo a profound shift. We will recognize that we already possess everything we need to experience genuine joy, happiness, sanctity and connectedness. The geulah state of Redemption simply requires us to open our eyes to this reality.5

As a 9th of Av birthday girl, this is my wish for us all. No matter what life has brought us, there is so much more hidden potential waiting for us to discover.

There will come a day when the veil will lift, and we will suddenly become aware of the impact of our deeds. Our painful, lonely years of toil will suddenly become illuminated, and in one breathtaking moment, we will realize the power we had all along. We will see the difference we have made in this world, even when we felt small and insignificant.

Imagine this vision catching on—first with a handful of people, then with thousands, then millions. Strangers will discover a common language, leading to a deep sense of connection and a revitalization in all our relationships.

Imagine the catharsis and joy that awaits us when all our worlds align at last, when we will stand face to face with the Divine. Imagine the joy permeating our beings, pulsating through our veins, overflowing in a spirited dance.

This is the joy I wish for us: the joy of transformation, of darkness and of mourning transformed into light. When we will experience true nechamah (“consolation”) for the wounds of our past. When our souls will break free of the final threads of exile and taste the sweetness of true and complete redemption.