This year started with a high potential for profound personal disappointment, despite immense professional success. What my inner circle understood was that I was facing a milestone birthday during a pandemic, as a single mom without family close by and a teenager that showed zero interest in launching after his high school graduation.  I quickly realized that the only way to get through this year was to give myself a challenge: within 9 months, I must do 50 nice things for myself before turning 50 this fall.

My happiness project began in January with some home improvement projects, including rearranging all the furniture in my bedroom once my new bed and mattress arrived.  I purged a ton of junk and eliminated my storage unit, then once my son moved in full-time with his father, I converted his room into my study.  During the winter, I also treated myself to two meal-prep services that got me through those cold months in hibernation with limited supplies at the stores.

Mid-February, I put together a Galentine’s Day brunch with friends which was a blast.  On Valentine’s Day, I made sure to get my favorite flowers and splurge on personalized golf balls along with some nice new outfits for this golf season.  Then in the spring, I took a vacation and went to golf school for a few days.  Later, I invested in new clubs and based on various recommendations, I started researching and booking nice clubs I wanted to play this year. 

As word spread about my happiness project, my friends came up with their own ideas of how they could help me celebrate this milestone year.  Together, we have played some beautiful courses this season, and attended a few professional tournaments including KPMG at Congressional and Wells Fargo at TPC.  With friends that don’t golf, I went to New York City for a weekend in May to do some shopping and see a new show, then all summer we’ve been enjoying outings to the movies, some great hikes, wine tastings and various local concerts, including Yacht Rock and Barenaked Ladies at Wolftrap.

My images on Facebook and Instagram during this milestone year probably make me seem like a fairytale princess living her best life, and while I am indeed trying my best to do so, the reality is that it’s been far from easy.  The trials and tribulations of real-life demands, particularly running a law firm during COVID, are far more complicated that most would ever imagine.  The truth is, it is a daily personal choice to focus on the positives and to only share the parts of my story that I think will inspire others and spread joy.  

My son did finally launch, but not at all the way any of us imagined he would, and although his father and I have never been more in sync, the rest of the family is divided, which weighs heavily on me.  This loss was further exacerbated by my need to sever ties with a golf buddy, who wanted me to be his mistress.  Needless to say, these sudden and unforeseen circumstances have certainly made my happiness project far more of a challenge than originally anticipated.

But here’s the funny thing about my happiness project- I never thought it would be easy, nor did I expect it would be possible to complete my mission alone.  With just a few months to go, it is primarily because of the grace and kindness of so many wonderful people in my life that I am quite close to completing my goal of doing 50 nice things for myself before I turn 50.  And as I reflect on the past five decades, the reality is of all my accomplishments, I am most proud of the amazing network of friends and colleagues that I have in my life, who made this impossible journey of mine not just bearable, but profoundly beautiful.

It’s taken me almost half a century to learn that (1) I don’t have to be perfect to be loved; (2) it’s okay to take a breath and enjoy some peace and quiet, (3) there’s no need to apologize for who we are and what we want; (4) family dynamics and intimate relationships will always be complicated, and (5) my time and energy are valuable resources that should not be squandered.  Fortunately, I am surrounded by many wise friends that have learned these same lessons, and together we will get through our darkest chapters while also celebrating those great wins, both on and off the golf course.

50 is just a number, but for me it’s an important milestone that deserves to be celebrated to the fullest with all those that stood by me for better or worse, especially during my transition into an empty nester this year.  As I continue to embrace my new-found freedom, I do hope you continue to enjoy the social media posts, but let’s try to keep it real and give credit where credit is due– it is only thanks to my friends that I fully believe I’ll get through this next chapter and that the best is yet to come.   

By Regina A. DeMeo