Updated: Mar 7
Left wandering. Pen on paper. DB, Feb 2020
Like most other women my age, I often find myself frowning at my grey hairs in the mirror. Or more accurately, the grey roots that grow out under the hairs dye from the last color treatment I’ve had done.
And like many other middle aged women, I have felt the need to hide my age - deflecting questions when anyone was rude enough to ask directly. As if somehow my age was a dirty little secret that I needed to hide, rather than a biological fact. I’m trying to remember when I became embarrassed to share my age. I do remember being proud to announce my age when I was young but somewhere around the age of 40, it became not so cool.
Actually we are all getting older every single day. In fact staying alive and getting older is by far preferable to the alternative. So why are some of us so reluctant to share our age? It could be because we live in a youth oriented culture that celebrates young people for their strength, beauty, intelligence, fun, desirability, and power. By contrast, older people stereotypes are weak, boring, uncool, irrelevant, and sometimes even repulsive or pitiful.
Perhaps we fear it exactly because we judge older people to be lesser than, including ourselves.
In fact there is a societal stigma associated with aging that leads us to keep quiet about our age, in case we may be discriminated against and judged. Perhaps we fear it exactly because we judge older people to be lesser than, including ourselves. Because we believe that narrative to be true. After all, there are a plethora of euphemisms that we use to describe seniors: “over the hill”, “past (their) prime”, “not what (they) used to be”, to name a few.
But what if such narratives were just as false and contemptible as prejudice against race, gender, sexual orientation? After all, we all know many examples of admirable, powerful, attractive, sexy, intelligent senior citizens. One might argue that it is their very age that commands our respect, without said age they would not radiate such experience, wisdom, success, and resilience. Examples include Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Yeoh.
What if we could choose to believe a different narrative. One that says that the best is yet to come? That the first half of your adult life (age 18 to 50) was about building careers and families. And that the latter half will be about enjoyment, personal growth and fulfillment. Life after 50 doesn’t have to be about constantly striving, worrying about what other people think, and being fearful of getting older. You know yourself - what you’re good at and what you love. You’ve earned some successes and lived through failures over the years.
What matters most
You can change the course of your future life by making investments today that will pay dividends over the next 20-30 years. Now that you have a better idea of what matters most, you can choose to live a life with fewer regrets. No one can do this but you. You can begin again now to make the next half of your life the wiser and best half.