Dismissed, discarded, devalued, discouraged: The injustices, inequities, and challenges of aging are very real. Body image and identity – especially in women over the age of 50 – are negatively skewed with every birthday we celebrate (or keep secret). Add to that the isolation and loneliness that this pandemic has delivered with its social distancing safeguards and being seasoned in today’s society may leave us with a bitter taste.
My book “Seriously! Are We THERE Yet?!” is a product of my own experience with the challenges of aging, and having been unceremoniously dismissed and discarded from my job, the very thing I thought defined me. At the age of 52, I unexpectedly found myself the one place I never thought I’d be: Unemployed, without a plan or even a paycheck, questioning my purpose and my worth. I sat quite uncomfortably between what was no longer and what was yet to be. Compounding the issue was the fact that I had risen to the level of corner office, fancy title, working as part of a team, in a position as leader and in a season in life when I expected to hear something similar to my GPS proclaiming, “You have arrived.” Instead, what rang in my head were the words I whispered to myself: “You f**ked up” and “Who do you think you are?” It’s why this book started out as a bit of a rant with its original title being, “Are We The F**k There Yet?!” as the constant war within me of why I wasn’t where I thought I already “shoulda”, “coulda”, or “woulda” be raged on.
While writing the book, I quickly learned I wasn’t alone with my thoughts and feelings. My coaching clients, colleagues and friends – people of all ages – shared that they, too, felt the same way, which then led to work on a documentary about the challenges of aging, parts of which have made it into the book trailer. I also realized that I had been spending a lot of my time people pleasing and dimming my own light, playing by everybody else’s rules, and losing sight of who I really was in order to be what others and society had led me to believe I needed to be. The day that lesson clicked for me was the day I had my hair colored purple – something I had always admired in others and wanted to do for myself, but assumed it would be viewed as inappropriate for a communications executive. “Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?” I asked myself that question, a line from one of my favorite movies, What A Girl Wants, and answered it by making a conscious decision to no longer spend my time playing small. Since then, I’ve made it my mission to let my light shine, and I’ve put together a playbook to help others tap into their own power so they can shine bright living life by their own rules, too, regardless of age or their circumstances.
The secret, as I’ve learned, to turning the tide on ageism and feelings of being devalued, dismissed, all on your own, and discarded is to remembering who you are and valuing what you are worth. Experience is not to be discounted. Someone else’s inability to see your worth doesn’t diminish your value. And it isn’t your age that matters at all. Nor is it what latest tech tool you’ve mastered. What it really comes down to is the life you’ve lived in as many years and the lessons you’ve learned that have made you YOU and that you can pass on.
The International Day of Older Persons (October 1) is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Its aim is to raise awareness of the impact of an ageing population and the need to ensure that people can grow old with dignity and continue to participate in society as citizens with full rights, and to recognize and celebrate the major contributions older persons make to society. Too many seniors are forgotten and even shut away, their wisdom and learnings lost to us by doing so. Likewise, too many older persons accept being tossed aside, giving in and giving up, assuming it’s too late and “game over”!
But this much I know to be true: Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying. This famous line from the movie The Shawshank Redemption underscores our available choices when dealing with the challenges of aging or any situation for that matter. We can be proactive and do something (get busy living) or accept things as they are and do nothing (get busy dying). The beauty of being older, in case this point isn’t already clear, is that we have a lifetime full of experiences upon which to draw and use to launch us into whatever the next chapter of our lives might be.
Don’t believe me? Connect with me here for a free 30-minute chat to discover just how important you and your story really are. Schedule your call with me, and I’ll send you a free gift: My “8 Female Greats Who Made Their Own Magic After Age 40…50…60…70…Even 80!” poster.