No, the above picture isn’t me. But it seems to be a characterization of a woman of a certain age…although, I’m not certain what her age is.
I had a big birthday a little while ago. I turned overnight from a middle-ager into a senior citizen. How can that be? I don’t feel any different. And I still look really good (or at least I think I do). Facing this new reality is strange. I’m closing in on the latter part of my life. Society tells me that I’m supposed to think and feel a certain way, dress a certain way, etc. But honestly, I’m not about to give up who I am just to fit a mold.
First and foremost, I’m a creative. It’s all I’ve ever known. I started out as a musician and I ended up as a writer. Along the way, I’ve developed certain tastes that have evolved.
I’ll start with music.
While I studied opera for a number of years, I chose to go into opera production. I worked for one of the world’s largest and most prestigious opera companies in New York City (guess!). I produced shows for families that taught them was opera was. I was so good at it, I was awarded a fellowship at the University of Dortmund, Germany to teach students what I do. But all along, I listed to punk, which eventually transformed into indie music. I started listening to The Ramones at the same time I learned Rossini. Loved them both equally well. But I didn’t stay stuck in either genre. I became well acquainted with Glass and Adams. Same goes for Guided by Voices and Weezer. Now, I’m really into Wet Leg and Horsegirl – two bands that broke into the indie scene last year. Am I supposed to give up listening to them because I turned 60? I don’t think so.
I have friends who are decades younger than me. We’ve got lots in common. We hang out, talk politics, music, world events and even the horrific war in Ukraine. Does it matter that they’re in their 30s and 40s? Why should it? These are also people who’ll listen to me when I’m about to lose it, and at the same time, I’ll hold the tissue box for them.
I work out daily. While I can’t lift the heavier weights like I used to, I still lift them daily. That, and I can do a decent job of jogging four miles every morning too. I’ve managed to keep my arms looking pretty taut. My clothes still fit. No, I don’t wear any bare midriff styles and tend to wear capris instead of shorts. But I’m not going to go into that “mature” women’s store to find things “appropriate” for my age. I try on clothes that catch my eye and look good on. If they don’t reveal the slight roll my hips have taken on lately, I buy them.
It took me a long time to get here. A real long time. Last month, I went to visit a friend I haven’t seen in years. I happened to be on my way home from a visit to my son, and this friend lived on the way home. He knew me when I was at my worst, right after my husband left me for a younger woman. You see, this friend was my ex’s best friend…”was” being the operative word here. The Ex won’t discuss leaving me with Friend, because I’m sure he’s got some level of guilt behind it. Anyway, the person who strolled into Friend’s house wasn’t the bereft, brokenhearted woman of yore. She’s been replaced by someone who reclaimed who they were all along. And Friend noticed. “You got you back,” he said.
On top of losing my marriage, I lost my parents, my job and a whole bunch of other things within an 18-month period. The job search was brutal and humiliating. Nothing says defeat when you leave an interview and the next person waiting is several decades younger. That, and you never hear anything about that job, or any job, again. That’s how I wound up working retail. No one wanted to hire me because “I had too much experience” or “I didn’t have the right experience.”
All that translated into “I was too old for the job and didn’t know how to do modern tech platforms.” You think that’s nonsense? My sister, a college professor a few years older than me, was asked by a student if she knew what a podcast was. Yes, really. She threw him loads of shade, believe me.
Thing is, I’ve aged, but I’m not aged. I think and feel and breathe like I always have. I’ve grown wiser, but not stupid. There’s still a ton of dreams that need to realized, adventures to be had, and a life to be lived. Plenty of people feel as I do.
My advice? Keep going. Be your best you. Take every day seriously. The best is yet to be, even if today is a shambles. Yesterday is a bridge to nowhere, but tomorrow is a bridge to everywhere.