The age of an empty-nester seems to align with turning 50, a birthday worthy of festive jubilee! Over the past two years, I have attended several 50th birthday “events,” including my own, and I’ve come to the conclusion that turning 50 is very similar to turning 21. The gal embarking on the big 5-0 is tended to like a queen. She purchases no drinks and all her meals are absorbed by the pack. Friends announce she’s 50 to onlookers who congratulate with huge smiles. It is ensured the birthday girl has a cold beverage in her hand at all times and the weekend is solely about her and all the gloriousness that comes with turning 50.

The stark difference between turning 21 versus 50 has to do with enlightenment. There are 29 years between 21 and 50. That’s an entire lifetime of experiences and lessons, careers and family—all of which carve the 50-year-old of today. With this in mind, I’ve come to the conclusion that 50 is quite magical on many fronts. I was honored to adventure into the second half of life with a tribe of women who know how to welcome the 50s and all the beauty that comes with it.

“The evening stumble to our cabin blazed with laughter.”

Our first birthday adventure started at Jazzfest in New Orleans. The friend whose birthday it was is a planner by nature. She loves to hunt for amazing Airbnbs and fabulous restaurants. She pitched the dates to the rest of the pack. A firm YES was announced by everyone, and before long we were sitting outside New Orleans’s famous Cafe Dumont devouring beignets for lunch in the sunshine. Not a concern to be had. Next came the festival.

Dancing at 50 takes on a whole different level of self-care. Ibuprofen is to be administered before and after (possibly during) a daylong event such as a music festival. At 50, you don’t care what people think when you awkwardly slink into the crazy creek chair hauled in to support your lower lumbar. You’re comfortable and that is all that matters. Surveying the dancers, I noticed the ones allowing their body to do its thing were older—middle-aged. As we danced like monkeys on a shock carpet, the young people looked on with admiration. Or, at least that’s how I saw it; which comes with the shift in mentality at 50 where there is a contentment with unabashed silliness.

I would love to say the Mexico 50th birthday extravaganza was as successful as New Orleans, but I wasn’t there, unfortunately. Life happens. I did learn that the first Airbnb had an Alexa system in it. All weekend long my friends commanded things from her: “Alexa, play Bob Marley,” “Alexa, where is the nearest Margarita?” “Alexa, what time is it?” But at the second Airbnb, there was no Alexa. So when Birthday Girl No. 2 shouted aggressively, “Alexis, where is the best ceviche?” or “Alexis, what time is sunset?!” and received no response, she shouted, “That B%tch, Alexis! She’s never available when you need her!” Oh, the loveliness of being 50 and the giggles that ensue.

My golden gathering was celebrated at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. Seven of us stayed at a large cabin. Cheese fondue and accompaniments were enthusiastically gobbled, and getting into a bathing suit afterward was a badge of honor. Copious hours were spent talking and floating in large pools of warm water with drink in hand. When I lowered myself into the heated creek pods, I took notice of how my thighs jiggled, but didn’t care. Instead, I felt a sense of gratitude for those legs of mine that work tirelessly to get me from A to B. I noticed how very comfortable all of my friends were with their bodies, a perspective seasoned with age.

When you turn 50, you can choose to not eat the $40 meal you ordered 30 minutes ago because you may have overindulged in other ways. “Can someone doggy bag that,” I asked my friend who immediately knew it was time for us to leave the fine dining restaurant. It was a great idea at one point. The evening stumble to our cabin blazed with laughter. There was no bar to continue the shenanigans, so I happily accepted watching “Aquaman 2, The Lost Kingdom” while sprawled on the couch. Surrounded by good friends, crisp drinks and Cheez-Its, I needed nothing more.

The final 50th celebration of one of my close friends landed us at Mishawaka Amphitheatre, boogying the night away. As the breeze off the Poudre cooled my sweat, I couldn’t help but to feel a sense of euphoria. Here we were again, honoring a milestone and every ounce of freedom that comes with it. There was no cell reception, which made the night all the more freeing. We had to “find” each other like back in the old days. At one point, I was dancing for about an hour 10 feet from the birthday girl, only to discover her on my way to the bathroom.

Speaking of bathrooms… it seems the urge to urinate happens more often when you’re older. Instead of viewing it as a nuisance, I found it a time to meet new people: typically, people my age who were on the same pee schedule. Plus, breaks in the cacophony are necessary for me. It’s when I people-watch, get my bearings, and assess my energy barometer. Lately, I’ve been a firm believer in doing what the body needs. It’s okay to feel done and not force it. The night prior to Mishawaka, we were out and about in Ft. Collins and I hit the wall at 10 pm, so I unapologetically ordered myself an Uber. Within 20 minutes, I was happily curled up in bed. If it was a 21-year-old party weekend, I think my eyebrows would have been shaved.

While there are parallels between turning 21 and turning 50, nothing compares to the magnificent understanding of self that comes with age. We are now more in tune with our needs and wants, have a few more bucks in the bank, and actually know things! It’s like the universe is screaming, “Hey, don’t leave yet! There’s a whole second act!”