Getting older is never fun. Let’s be frank and say, it kind of depressing! I know, I know, it certainly beats the alternative. As we age, new pains, ailments, surprises of what our body can and cannot do are being added to my list of maladies. In my head and hopefully my healthy heart, I feel like I am still in my mid-30s, ready to take on the world. And, by the end of each day, the proof of my experiences show up when I feel a twinge in my lower back when getting out of the car, or when I reach the second shelf of the kitchen cabinet as I empty the dishwasher, feeling an all too familiar sensation that I had shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff almost 10 years ago or most recently, while at work through a casual conversations.
This past week, one of my colleagues complimented me on my new haircut. At that point in the day, my self-esteem was soaring through the roof, as I received a few compliments about how good it looked. In fact, one of my clients, a senior advisor to my group said I looked 10 years younger. He also said “am I allowed to say that?” wondering out loud if he crossed an ethical line of complimenting of someone of the opposite sex. Do I really look that old? After a cut and color (yet another reminder), my hairdresser took the time to style it straight. As a person who has curly, and sometimes unruly hair, wearing it straight is truly like a special occasion. During the months of April thru October Central North Carolina has very few days where wearing my hair straight without the repercussion of high humidity, are few and far between. I constantly run my fingers through my hair, as it is a new sensation, when I opt for straightening. I felt good, I know it looked good, and was wearing my newly coiffed hair proudly. That is until the second part of her ‘compliment’ threw me for a loop.
“Lauren, did you just get your haircut?”
“As a matter of fact I did” I replied, with a smile on my face.
“It looks really nice” pause “It’s just like my mom’s”
I nearly stopped in my tracks, took a deep breath and said, “I hope that is a compliment”.
“Yes, yes, it is, I love my mom” as she said nervously.
While I know she earnestly was being nice, it only reinforces my reality that the workforce is continually getting younger, much younger, and I look like someone else’s mom. I realize I got married a little later than most of my friends, had my son in my 30s, and could conceivably be as old as her mother and be her mom. When relaying the story to another one of my colleagues, she said, “She must be a really cool mom”. True, but was she just being nice to make me feel better?
As we age, certain parts of our bodies stop working as efficiently, like shoulders, knees, lower backs and eyes. Within the past 2 years, my eyesight has incrementally gotten worse, now needing regular glasses with the fancy progressive bifocals added as a bonus. Armed with a new prescription, and in need of new glasses I was turned onto a website that produces glasses for a fraction of the price, by coincidentally, a younger colleague. I was so excited to share how cheap the purchase of new specs (with progressives, transitions, anti-glare coatings, aka all the extras) with some of my work buddies, that one of them said while laughing “how old ARE you?!” I know it was a joke, laughed along with her, and realize how ridiculous the depiction of all the bells and whistles my new glasses have. The conversation and joke were very funny. Sadly though, it only reinforced the fact that I am not getting any younger.
Fortunately for me, when I took this job, I realized it was more about the people and culture, as it is really is a great place to work. The organization is filled with extremely talented people who care about what we do and the impact we have on other organizations. I’m happy with the work and hope I am making positive contributions. The job is rewarding, and the organization prides itself on all of the details (big and small). One of the smaller details, when preparing for an upcoming program, is to provide materials for the set-up of a room. All materials are placed on a rolling cart and delivered to the classroom. Each and every time I push this cart from one end of a building to the other, I am always reminded of the scene from the movie Working Girl starring Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford, where Melanie’s character is pushing a cart of Dim Sum around at a party, with steam coming out of chafing dishes, frizzing her hair uncontrollably while her make-up drips down her face. I don’t know why but I completely identify with this scene and her, mostly because of unmanageable hair while pushing the cart and thinking to herself “Really?!” She was young, ambitious, and did what needed to be done, plus, it’s very funny. I shared my thoughts about this scene and with a few of my colleagues, who looked at me like I was crazy, and admitted they never heard of the movie. Seriously, nothing makes you feel older than making a late 1980s pop culture reference where no one knows what you are talking about. Am I past my prime or just plain old AF? I wondered to myself. Notice how I added current lingo reference, desperately trying to stay current?
With age comes wisdom, or one would hope. I acknowledge the fact that I am in my early 50s, my son is ¾ way finished with high school and preparing for college, and I am at a stage where I am looking to downsize to a house that is smaller, more manageable, less upkeep and potentially all on one floor. I am looking for a replica of my starter house, and not the center hall colonial – the house I harassed my husband for and the one we upgraded to when we moved to North Carolina. The juxtaposition is I am at a completely different place whereas my colleagues are just starting. We’ve celebrated many engagements, weddings and recent births. It brings so much joy to the office, and throughout these celebrations, I am thrilled to share in their joy. These wonderful milestones highlight where they are in their lives – the beginning.
Being able to relate with your colleagues, older and younger is a balancing act and I’ll admit, my ability to identify with my younger colleagues, at times, has caused me to become more reflective and open to new ways of doing things. I appreciate where they are in their careers, wanting to excel, move on to more challenging roles in and out of the organization. As someone who has spent the majority of her adult life planning trade shows, meetings, incentives, conferences, and programs of the like, I often wonder what my next challenge will be.
Sure, getting older is certain however it is how you embrace getting older that makes all the difference when staying young. Being old is something completely different than your calendar years. Working with some really smart younger people has hopefully kept me more relevant and young at heart. My seasoned career is something I am proud of. Realizing that I was once the youngest, most inexperienced and most eager to succeed, is a reminder of how things have not changed, only I have. Embracing the newer and younger coworkers has kept me on my toes, been enlightening and humbling. Laughing at yourself, and finding the joy and humor in the most routine of tasks, sharing in the good fortune of those you work with is what it is all about. Who knows what my future will bring, and maybe I’ll start my third act – retirement, full time blogging, getting published or finding a new career, still remain uncertain. All I know is that it might be nice to be one of the younger ones. Umm, hello over 55 community, I think you are calling my name!