By Michele Herenstein

When I was young, my classmates and I had birthday parties each year. Some of us had “fancier” parties, perhaps in a hall, while others had parties at home. My birthday, luckily, had mostly beautiful weather so I had backyard parties. I would wear a party dress, and all my friends came. We were all happy and it was so innocent. I’d open all the gifts and we’d have food and cake. I didn’t think about the future; it was just pure fun.

Technology played no part in my parties. One of the best parties was my 21st birthday, where I had 10–15 girls sleeping at my house for Shabbat. On Saturday night more people came, and it was an incredible amount of fun.

I was always creative when it came to birthdays. For my 16th birthday, instead of renting a shul or a hall, I invited enough friends to take a bus to a hotel in the Catskills. We had lunch there, and enjoyed ice-skating, boating, bowling, and other activities, followed by dinner before we left for home. It was a wonderful day. My friends still talk about it to this day. “Remember Michele’s Sweet Sixteen in the Catskills…”

My birthday is arriving shortly. As it chases me down, I run from it, not wanting my birthday to take over. It makes me wonder: are birthdays a good thing, a bad thing, or nothing at all? Everyone has a birthday, whether they acknowledge it or not. Sometimes birthdays feel nice, especially the 89 “Happy Birthday” messages that I get to read on Facebook. I used to get 10–15 greeting cards sent by mail. Now I usually get about 4–5 greeting cards because e-mail has taken over.

Birthdays scare me. They bring up the idea of dementia, mid-life crisis, and other diseases. Even though 40–50 is not old, it scares many people. But the idea that you’re too old to start new things is not true. Aging is not necessarily a bad thing. Wisdom is wonderful, and with age comes wisdom.

“A mid-life crisis is an emotional condition that can appear in both men and women, usually around the age of 35 to 50 years. The anxiety felt usually focuses on the realization that the person’s life is halfway over. There are many reasons why a person may experience this. According to research, one of the factors in this condition has to do with aging. The person may feel that by the time she reaches the supposed halfway point in life, she should have achieved more” (

When I think about my birthday, I feel the glass is half-empty. I should have accomplished so much more at this point of my life. I wrote two manuscripts and I can’t imagine them being published. It feels out of reach. Thank G-d, I have many years before I panic.

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen writes on her blog She Blossoms, “Starting over as a woman over fifty may not be what you planned, but you have more—and more valuable!—assets than you realize. Instead of thinking you’re too old to start over as a woman over 50 or 55 (or even 58 or 59), focus on what you do have and what you can do.

“Women who feel forced to start over have a different approach than women who accept that while this isn’t what they would’ve chosen at this stage of life, they will move on with hope and faith. Women over fifty know that nothing is ever promised or guaranteed, and that starting over when life knocks you down is simply part of living fully, madly, and deeply.”

Even if you’re not at that age yet, you can still live fully, madly, and deeply. Some people might feel all of this in their forties.

“If you tell yourself you have no choice—if you feel stuck and helpless—you’re putting yourself at an immediate disadvantage. You’re no longer a woman who needs a little encouragement to start over. You’re wandering into the ‘I’m helpless please rescue me’ wilderness, and that is a dangerous place to be.

“Starting over as a woman over fifty isn’t something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of! Hold your head up. Straighten your spine, square your shoulders, and look forward. Walk tall and bold, even if you feel small and scared. It’s time to stop looking back and start moving forward. Know that G-d created you exactly the way you are for a reason. He is walking beside you, and He won’t let you down.”

There are many ways to look ahead towards your future. Financial planning, emotional assets, and so much more. So many people feel the same way. Some people drink a glass of milk full on; other people don’t see the milk in the glass. Maybe different kinds of people can help each other.

“Keep age in perspective. Never think of age as being anything but just a number. There are some things in life we have no control over, such as when we were born. Age is no more than a circumstantial detail, like the color of your eyes, or the names of your parents; it does not define who you are. There are other things that do—those things we do have control over, such as how we think and what we do.” (WikiHOW)

As one gets older, he or she should remember birthdays of the past. Some people have birthday parties to celebrate the big 50! Others feel overwhelmed by the big 50 and feel life is half over.

“Join a group, club, or volunteer at a library or senior center. Take dancing lessons. Ballroom dancing is back, and just think of how great you would feel dancing the Cha-Cha once again, as you did in your youth. Go to bingo night at your local community center. Meet with like-minded people, and help those less fortunate than yourself. Most of all, have fun doing it.” (Wiki How to do Anything)

  • Continue to do things you used to do—biking, camping, swimming, dancing, or canoeing. You can still do them!
  • The difference between a spry “oldster” and a non-spry “oldster” is phenomenal. Stay flexible and sprightly by walking 20 minutes a day and rethink that elevator. Stairs are a wonderful thing. So is yoga class.
  • Select one character trait to work on for the year—for example, overcoming a short temper, becoming a better listener, etc. Then, next year, when you look back, you’ll feel really accomplished; you’re not the same person!

There are so many ways to stay young and be young. You have to choose to restart your life, not give up on it. Try to be a better person. Try to be kind. Decent. Helpful. Hopeful.

I’m hoping my birthday is a bundle of goodness and hope. Id like it to be more than it was last year, and more of a blessing than a glass half-empty.

It’s all in the attitude. Perk up and think about the years past, how good they were, and how good you can choose to make your future years.

Much luck, and happy birthday to all those with June birthdays!


Michele Herenstein can be reached at Read more of Michele Herenstein’s articles at


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