Is there an age limit on success and happiness? Some believe life starts winding down at age 50, but others are just getting started. Here’s Growing Bolder’s Amy Sweezey’s take on turning 50.
On my 48th birthday, a friend sent me a quote from Oprah Winfrey:
“I know for sure that the pathway to your best life isn’t the route of denial. It’s owning every moment; staking a claim in right now and, with gratitude, embracing the age you are.”
Up to that moment, I had answered every birthday wish with “Yes, I’m 29 AGAIN!” or “I don’t look a day over 35!” It was meant as a joke, but the Oprah quote had me thinking, WHY do we do that? Why did I deny my real age and pretend to be younger?
For as long as I could remember, women lied about their age. We were conditioned to believe that OLD is BAD and YOUNG is GOOD.
GROWING BOLDER CHANGED MY MINDSET
When I read Marc Middleton’s book, Growing Bolder: Defy the Cult of Youth, Live with Passion and Purpose, it CHANGED MY LIFE. Middleton pointed out that ageism is ingrained in our society. We have been programmed since birth to view old age as the “declining period” of life. And too often, we believe that begins at age 50.
Everyone grows older. Why do we find shame in embracing our age when we should really celebrate the wisdom, experience, and wrinkles that come with it? Rather than hiding it, we should recognize the value age has brought us.
Focusing on these truths and changing my own mindset about aging sure made a difference when my 50th birthday rolled around. I didn’t pretend to be 29. I threw a party! I shouted from the rooftops, “I AM 50!” and even better, “I am 50 and fabulous!”
QUITTING MY JOB CHANGED MY PERSPECTIVE
It was also around this same time that I quit my job. I left for a number of reasons, but upon my departure, I had to ask tough questions about what my future would look like. I was on the brink of 50, left my job on my own terms, but wasn’t ready to “retire.”
Most of my nearly 30-year career was spent as a broadcast meteorologist in local news. Working in front of a television camera came with an unspoken rule: old men could anchor the news forever; old women were pushed out for younger models. No one dared say it out loud, but we all knew it. We watched it happen, over and over again.
For years I knew eventually I would need a Plan B. Not “if” I was pushed out, but “when,” I needed to know what my next step might be.
Those nuggets of sad reality actually better prepared me for my job departure at age 50. I had already presumed I’d need other options, so I had been looking and searching and figuring out what my other passions were besides weather.
I also found encouragement from hundreds of people interviewed by my friends at Growing Bolder.
STORIES OF OTHERS CHANGED MY “WHAT’S NEXT?”
I was motivated by other strong women who discovered their “what’s next” after age 50.
Jane Pauley found herself job searching at age 54 after years on TV. She told Growing Bolder, “Inspiration is everywhere but you have to be looking. I think that’s all it really takes. If you’ve got your antennae up, you’ll be available for an opportunity you might not have noticed before.”
At the age of 108, Ruth Hamilton became the world’s oldest video blogger when she shared her lifetime of wisdom on the internet (with help from her friends at Growing Bolder).
When asked about her life of adventure, pilot Myrt Rose said, “You can’t just sit home and be afraid.” Rose began professional wing walking in her 40s by strapping herself to an airplane as the pilot performed maneuvers 1,500 feet in the air at 170 miles per hour! She learned to fly single and multi-engine aircraft and earned her helicopter rating in her 60s. Now in her mid-80s, Rose continues to fly an antique Piper J-3 Cub.
Real inspiration came from underwater cave diver Jill Heinerth who didn’t find her second career immediately. She described herself as a “30-year overnight success.” Heinerth’s transition from advertising to cave diving was a process. She started diving through underwater caves for fun and eventually sold everything, moved to the tropics, and turned her passion into a career.
Forbes’ second annual 50 over 50 features 200 women who prove that “success has no age limit.” It includes story after story of women who stepped into powerful roles not in spite of their age, but rather, as a direct result of it.
Happiness and success don’t have an age limit or an expiration date. As Middleton says, “It is never too late to make the rest of your life the best of your life.”
When your next birthday rolls around, be proud, be grateful, and shout from the rooftops, “I’m ___ and FABULOUS!”