Sometimes all you need is a glimpse into the future to let you know that things are going to be alright. It was a solid five months of career and professional uncertainty for me. I’d been thinking heavily about the hamster wheel I’d been running on for what seemed to be the last two years. Where was I going? What am I even doing? Should I pursue something else? I’m in my mid thirties and all of the dreams and aspirations I’d worked for in my twenties had not come to fruition yet. These thoughts subsided when I blamed my lack of “success” on having kids, being married, or not reaching out to the right people at the right time, but deep down inside I knew this was not completely true. Knowing there are no shortcuts to success, it still felt like my mantra of “hard work clears the path” was getting me nowhere.
I have always been enthusiastic about being an older woman because it looked like so much fun. I grew up on shows like The Golden Girls, 227, and Murder She Wrote (reruns). The main characters in these shows were women above 50 living their best lives. Watching my grandmothers have successful careers, amazingly vibrant family lives, while remaining active and fit, was reassurance to me that growing in grace and good health was a potential birthright. The problem was that I believed that this time in my life was really far off in the distance. But on my 36th birthday, I was overcome by the misnomer that if I were to live to at least 70, my life was now half over.
As a society, what are our thoughts about women who are aging?
For me, the Disrupt Aging Salon featuring Beverly Jackson and Karen Chong came right on time. The purpose of the roundtable was to define what it means to disrupt aging and to discuss generational inclusion and the value of diverse teams. Listening to a group of extremely accomplished women from a variety of diverse backgrounds and industries, opened my eyes to how life is not linear and how confident and empowered you can feel once you overcome your own ideas of what you should or should not be at a certain stage in life. These women ran successful businesses, some had children and grandchildren, but most importantly, they were pleased with their lives and were hungry enough to keep pursuing their dreams.
Here are the key takeaways about aging gracefully for women approaching 50:
Be a trailblazer. If you’re the only woman, or the only woman of color in the room, know that you’re supposed to be there. Be confident that you belong because there’s power in bravery and self assurance. Be ready to stand in the light of your moment.
Be a mentor. As you walk through the door, hold it open for other women coming up in the ranks. You have a unique position to connect to the past and the future. As a connector, you have a responsibility to make meaningful connections with your family, employees, and consumers.
Be unapologetic. Speak up! Diverse teams allow companies to authentically connect with their consumers. You bring value to your organization just by being your unique self. When you share your perspective, you help your company improve communications across demographics.
Aging gracefully is all about acknowledging your glory. Women nearing and above 50 should not hide behind it but they must step out into it and embrace it. Your glory is your greatest asset because it encompasses your experiences, your wisdom, and your knowledge. For me, aging gracefully means that my road ahead is brighter than the road behind me.
How will I define my journey on my own terms and accept myself and my choices?
Each stage in life is a new opportunity to reflect on what we’ve accomplished in the past, but to also be very hopeful about what possibilities on the horizon. We can’t forget how important it is for us to appreciate who we are right now. Awareness of how we engage with the feelings of growing older will help direct our attention and our energy so that we can achieve our goals.
Learn more about Disrupt Aging by visiting the website or following the hashtag #DisruptAging on social media.
This post is made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.