I find myself distracted lately at coffee shops where young women are working together, plucking at their phones, planning and scheming for new campaigns or other projects. It makes me want to shout. Watch Out, we are coming for your youth!
Women over fifty may be getting older, but we are also getting so much better! I feel strongly that woman of a certain age (over 50, let’s just say) do not fit history’s stereotypes. I don’t think we ever did.
Just look at the Supreme Court. Our women Supreme Court justices all took the bench after the age of fifty.
Fiftness featured Nina Sadowsky who published her first novel after 50. Laura Ingalls Wilder published after the age of 65. For a long while, I collected these women who first published after 50 as a sort of prayer or talisman for my own writing.
I am inspired most, however, by the women in my life. These are women I have known for years and countless birthday celebrations. These are curious women who don’t see being in or over fifty as a hurdle but rather as a jumping off point filled with strength, experience, energy, and possibility.
In October, I posted a photo of Rochelle on Instagram. She had asked if I might help her draft a resume. A resume? Really? A resume?
My mother had gone online to Indeed and was looking at jobs. She had worked my entire life until she retired some ten years earlier. Rochelle’s Knit Knit Knit was a yarn store that featured my mother’s handknit designs and her own patterns. She owned and operated her shop for almost thirty years. Before that, my mother had been a Librarian in the inner city schools. And before that, she was in school getting her Library of Science degree. One of my first memories of campus life was going with her while she registered for classes. It was an all-day affair with chalkboards hanging overhead and people on ladders marking classes closed. There was a lot of shouting. It did not phase her. In her graduation picture, she wore a purple dress printed with gold stars and moons. I only now appreciate the meaning in that dress as my mother, above so many odds, reaches for the stars and moons in all she does.
After she retired, she took art lessons and learned to weld metals to make jewelry. She became a prolific jewelry maker because being a Bubbe and my mother just wasn’t enough!
Seventy-eight years strong, Rochelle fills her days with reading plays for a performance group in Detroit and chairing different committees for the Detroit chapter of Hadassah. She has eleven grandchildren, nine of which she sees weekly, seven of which are under the age of eighteen. She is a busy woman. I asked why a job? How a job?
My mother wanted to work in a field separate from her volunteer work. She hoped to find a job for which she might be remunerated. This is what she told me. She felt that a job would make her feel good about herself. She wanted to do more.
Because a body in motion doesn’t age. Or maybe better said, so much better to wear out than simply to fade out from inactivity.
And what of all those mothers I shared carpool duties with once upon a time? One mother went back to painting full time. Laurey applied for and received a fellowship to create an art program for public schools. Another mother, from carpool, went back to school to get a life-coaching certificate only to realize her passion was in coaching in the open air. Lisa started a hiking company. She coaches women willing to commit to a six-week program hiking trails on a journey both physical as well as personal. Rachel, who hadn’t worked outside the home for twenty years or so, became a luxury travel agent.
There’s the family friend with an enviable career in media. She retired at fifty to open her own consulting company. A new friend tackles the difficult job of easing end of life suffering as a Death Doula, complimenting this work by teaching and selling essential oils. I just connected with a fitness entrepreneur from Minnesota. Now in her fifties, she uses her experience and knowledge to get women in midlife moving. I’m sure she understands my changing body far better than my twenty-four-year-old personal trainer!
And these are just the women I know!
The term fearless really means don’t let fear get in your way. I don’t have the training to write a blog called Fiftiness. I don’t have any certificates that make me an expert in navigating life after any particular age. All I have is the experience of age. Which lets me turn fear on its head!
In so many ways it’s our very age and experience that is the added value we bring to new ventures. We know so much more than our younger selves ever could.
Sometimes it’s that understanding of the value of my fifty-five years that steals me from my fears as I write this post and the next and the one after that. Sometimes not. On the days I can’t get out of my own way, I only have to look to the women in my life who inspire me.
I invite you to look around and collect fearless women in your life. Lean on the women who motivate you and inspire you. Ask them questions about how they started something new. Ask them if they are afraid of failing or worse yet, embarrassing themselves. When you have all of those answers, which I promise will surprise you, take a first step towards doing something that will make you feel fearless. Join a gym. Hire a nutritionist. Take a class on social media marketing. Write your resume. Fall in love. With yourself. All over again. Because women over fifty are rocking it!
Meet a few of the Role Models mentioned in the article: