A new dress doesn’t get you anywhere;
It’s the life you’re living in the dress,
And the sort of life you had lived before,
And what you will do it in later.
– Diana Vreeland, fashion columnist and editor
When I turned 49 in February 2011, my family and I had recently lost our beloved 12-year-old dog Bailey and I began to think about and fear turning 50. I asked myself what it was about reaching this milestone birthday that made me apprehensive. The answer was simple: I had not accomplished what I had imagined for myself when I was in my idealistic 20s. In my fifth decade, I was sure that I would be on my fifth successful novel and my kids would be high school age. I had mapped out my life when I was a senior in high school – go to college, join the Peace Corps, go to a creative writing program and then the usual get a job, get married and have children.
Life has a way of twisting and turning, especially for people who have their lives mapped out quite early. A marriage, a divorce, another marriage, two children, two dogs and a handful of jobs later, I found myself in 2011 wanting to live fully and creatively. The novel that I had started in 1997 – which went through several major revisions, several hundreds of pages, kind and careful eyes of good friends – languished in 2006 when many literary agents said it was too long and not marketable. Creatively speaking, I sat down by the roadside and never got up. But I did not sleepwalk through life. I threw myself into raising my two children, volunteered at their schools – started an enrichment program and helped to raise funds, among other duties – and honed my editing and writing skills in the healthcare information technology industry.
Something was missing, and though I knew it, I needed to wait until I was ready to get up from the roadside. When 50 crept closer, I felt it was time. In 2011 I began to work on the novel again and thought of a lifestyle blog that celebrated creativity in every facet of my life. There were roadblocks along the way, but I slowly made progress. And then a few months before I turned 50, my 85-year-old mother was stricken with pneumonia and on New Year’s Eve we made the painful decision to take her off the ventilator.
I had always imagined handing my first published novel to my father, who appreciated my writing ability and was proud of my college degrees because his education in the Philippines stopped in the second grade, but he passed away in 1995. I began my novel in 1997 as an homage to his and his cousins’ immigrant lives in America. I had hoped to be able to hand this novel in published form to my mother. Instead, her passing lit a fire in me to finally finish my novel and to get that blog up.
The Dress at 50 seeks to embrace Diana Vreeland’s quote. Live fully and creatively. Make the world a better place. Feel good about yourself. Celebrate creation. It’s everywhere – in the way you choose to dress, make your house your home, spend time with your family and friends. It’s how you live your life.
So, here is my interpretation of living the creative life at 50. Every day I hope to share what inspires me.