What Does Aging Really Mean?

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I turned 50 a few months ago.  There.  I said it.  (Or wrote it.)  I’ve refused to acknowledge the fact that I’m past the half century mark.  Most likely, my life is more than half over.  What do I have to look forward to besides wrinkles, sags, and memory loss?  I’m struggling to find anything good about aging.  I’ve tried on a few platitudes for size.  “I’m grateful for all the good things in my life.”  “Life has been an amazing journey.”  Blah, blah, blah…  My children are wonderful, happy, and healthy.  I have a successful career.  I don’t have the financial worries that plagued my life in younger days.  Yeah, great.  I also don’t have my youth.  That was worth something, wasn’t it?  

Of course, I am happy about the blessings in my life.  I’m very proud of my accomplishments, luck, and the wonderful people who are a part of my life.  Still…50, FIFTY, the BIG 5-0, really bothers me.  I’m worn out.  I’m tired.  I’ve had too many disappointments, and they show on my face and behind my eyes.  I’m not pleased with the changes I see when I look in the mirror.  Yet, those changes are as much of a part of who I am as the youthful face I once possessed.  I just need to figure out how to like this new, older version of myself.

Story of Aging Number One:

My administrative assistant is 68 years old.  She is a problem I have been saddled with along with my new job.  While she is a lovely and kind woman, she hasn’t kept up with current, modern office practices.  She’s been in this position for 19 years.  I was hired to implement change, and my assistant is stuck in the past.  Her mantra is, “but that’s how we’ve always done things…”  I value her insight into the past and the wealth of information she can provide me about the history of the organization.  However, I would be better served to have an assistant that understands how to create an Excel spreadsheet or update our website.

My assistant takes notes in shorthand.  She doesn’t think twice about making a pot of coffee for a meeting.  Her style of correspondence is that of twenty years ago, aka….”Dear Sir,”  Her emails come screaming at you in ALL CAPS, with plenty of BOLD, underlined and red type for emphasis.  She saves documents on her cluttered desktop and is stymied by our newly networked drives.  The organizational concept of computer folders and files eludes her.  My Executive Committee has asked me to address this problem sooner rather than later.  I had hoped to discover during her employment review that she had plans for retirement.  When I delicately broached the subject, she assured me that she hasn’t given retirement a thought.  Due to her age and her lack of desire to retire, things are becoming complicated.  The fact is, she is not able to properly do what is expected of her.  I’m muddling along with the help of an additional part time staffer that would not be needed if the one person in that position could actually do her job.  The bottom line is that this is costing us too much money.

Many times in recent months, I have sat in my office silently praying, “God, please let me know when it’s time to step aside.”  I love working.  Often, my life is defined by my job, my career, my drive to succeed and achieve.  Who would I be without those things?  How will I feel when I am 68 years old?  How will those around me feel about me when I’m 68? I feel a seed of fear form in my belly when people come to me complaining about my assistant.  “She’s too old.  She needs to quit.  It’s time for her to let go and let someone younger and more capable do her job.”

I’ve tried to teach her, but the lessons haven’t stuck.  I’ve been patient.  Instead of insisting that she learn, or instead of watching her fall flat on her face, I have done portions of her job myself.  I have covered for her to the point that it has begun to impact my job.  A decision has to be made.  I am the one who has to make this decision, and it has to be made soon.  I am dreading the thought of “putting the old girl out to pasture.”

Story of Aging Number Two:  

Last weekend I went to Vegas with my friends, three women, two of us over 50 and one woman in her late 20’s.  We worked together at my previous job, and now we’ve gone our separate ways.  I am honored to be able to call them my friends. Taking four days out of my busy schedule and my family obligations was heavenly.  Jetting away from the hell of this horrible Midwestern winter was wonderfully energizing.  The sun on my shoulders, wind in my hair, the sparkling water of the pool while we enjoyed drinks, laughter, and conversation reminded me why I work so hard.  I savored those moments of relaxation and friendship.  One good thing about age is the ability to recognize those moments that are precious and will become memories to be cherished later.

Even as we enjoyed time spent with each other, the disparity in our ages became apparent during our trip.  On the first night we dressed “Vegas-style” in all our finery and strappy heals.  We had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant in the Vegas version of the Eiffel tower.  As we walked through the casino after dinner, we were approached by a man on the hotel staff who offered to escort us to the dance club upstairs.  We could enter into the VIP area for $20, drinks included.  Our young friend was elated, as she had been after us to agree to go dancing that night.  We looked at each other, and decided to give it a try.  We followed our escort up an escalator to the club.  At the top, there was a long line of men waiting to get in at full price, while women were be personally escorted through the VIP doors.  As my older friend and I approached the door, we heard, “Alright!  MILF’s!”  If you don’t know what a MILF is, look it up, because I’m not going to write about it here.

Of course we were older than 99% of the people waiting to go into the club.  My older friend is gorgeous.  My younger friend is tall, willowy, and young.  I felt like Aunt Bea.  I felt icky and old.  I didn’t want to be stared at.  I certainly didn’t want to spend the night feeling painfully aware of my age.  I immediately decided that I would not be subjecting myself to an evening of being called a MILF by young men the same age as my sons.  I turned to my friend, and said, “I can’t do this.”

She said, “Thank God!”  We felt bad to disappoint our young friend, and we encouraged her to stay if she would like.  We offered to wait for her down in the casino.  We didn’t mind playing slots for a while so she could have some fun dancing.  She begged us to go inside.  She told us that we should see being called a MILF as a compliment.  Ha!  Oh, young people are so funny.

We felt bad to have disappointed our young friend.  When we returned to our hotel, we asked her if she would like to join us for a nightcap before heading up to our rooms.  She said, “What’s the point?” and went up to bed.  It was one of those rare moments when I realized how young she is, and that I am old enough to be her mother.  My older friend and I l sat and talked quietly for another hour or so.  We caught up, like two old women would do.  We talked about mutual friends, our children, our lives, men, sex, and about aging.

If we’re lucky, as we age, we no longer find ourselves going along with the crowd.  We become more certain of our own actions.  We learn to trust our instincts and decisions.  We simply stop worrying about what others will say, or think, or what other people would do.  Our lives become our own, and that’s a wonderful benefit of aging.  That is, if we’re lucky.  Some people seem to become even more entrenched in protocol and following the crowd as they age.  They become more set in their little routines.  I am beginning to see that this part of life can become the time of greatest freedom, and I intend to embrace each day with that in mind.  It’s time to come into my own and embrace these 50 years of mine.

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