Saturday, March 14, 2009

On Being Middle Aged

My first boss died of a brain tumor in his mid 40s. About 10 years after he died, I was talking to one of my co-workers and he commented that he was the same age as my boss had been when he died. He said you know, this is the age where you finally come into your own, and it's too bad he never got to experience that.

I was surprised by the comment, because this co-worker and I rarely talked about anything other than work. But it was one of those comments that always stuck with me.

Sometimes people make the comment that they would love to be young again. I am not in agreement. While I'm starting to feel old in many ways - with memory loss, aching joints and daily medications - I don't want to go back there. I think of youth as always worrying what people will think. Decisions being made based on how others would perceive me. Yeah, I've been there and done that, and I'm quite happy with where I am.

In my youth, I was a workaholic, and I thrived on that. When our company went through an upheaval years ago, and we were all stressed out to the max, I started to re-evaluate my priorities. And I decided that more than anything else, I wanted peace and balance in my life. I set up an interview at a company that was a 7 minute drive from my home, after driving downtown for 19 years. The position at this company was a lesser position than what I had previously held, and I wanted that lesser position. But the person interviewing me didn't get that, and had me come back for something like 5 interviews with different employees there, who were all shocked that I was going DOWN the career ladder. I explained to each one that I was looking for more balance and fewer responsibilities. I didn't understand why they didn't get that. I'm thinking it's a middle-aged mentality.

I had one interview at a place where the interviewer reminded me of me 25 years ago. She was very important at that company, and she felt important, and it was very important for her to feel important! During the interview she talked disparagingly about employees who arrived right on time, who took their full lunch, and - god forbid - who left right at 5:00. I honestly was feeling there wasn't enough air in that room and I had to get out of there! I thought lady, there is more to life than your job! But she was young, and hadn't smartened up yet.

I think part of aging is really enjoying the simple things that I would have found boring in my youth. Like gardening. I started to get into that a few years ago, and I can't tell you the joy I experience in the summer just walking out to my little flower garden and vegetable garden and seeing what's growing there. I'm thinking when you're young, you have accomplishments like good grades or starring in a school play or getting on a varsity team. Now, getting anything to grow when there was previously only soil is a major accomplishment that makes me proud!

And while I have known older people who speak their mind to the point of being obnoxious, I think middle-age brings with it an it's-ok-to-say-what's-on-your-mind mentality. As long as it's respectful.

Part of being middle-aged is also being able to see your kids in a different light. I'm not there to tell them what to do anymore, but to watch and hope they make the decisions that are best for them. Of course as a mom, I will always worry about my kids, but it's kind of interesting to see the paths they choose for themselves.

So I don't yearn for the days of my youth. I'm quite content with where I am right now.


anno said...

Me, too! I love getting older, wearing what I like & eating what I please, making decisions without (too much) regard for what others might think. Watching my daughter go through her 15th year, I've been very glad that part of my life is long behind me...

Trish said...

Boy, did I enjoy reading your post - and all I can add is a large and heartfelt "AMEN"!!

I would not want to be younger - I am having far too much fun doing things I never thought I would, and enjoying every simple moment of it!

Anonymous said...

There are times in my life I wish I could revisit. When moving to a new town was easy and not something to be worried about or dreaded. But I agree some things are easier as we age. I tend to stand up for myself more than when I was young and will speak my mind and if people don't like it I don't worry about it. Too bad we can' have this freedom with out the aches, meds, glasses etc. that comes with the territory.

robin bird said...

well i am came here from jeanie over at marmalade gypsy looking for a recipe for lemon blueberry bread but instead i got some wisdom on life and balance. i also do not miss the days of my youth yet i more than ever wish for more time. now that i am older (old even) i am burning with passion for life and all the experiences i yet want to have. all of which do not involve working at a job. thanks for the words of wisdom!
hey and about that recipe... did i miss it in your archives?

Carole said...

Oh I loved your post. I totally agree - I am happy at my age now - I don't want to go back to my youth when I was an insecure idiot. I'm pretty sure I'm not as stupid now and I definitely don't worry as much about what people think.

Jeanie said...

I love being older, feeling the pressure is off, feeling more confident in my own skin. Apart from some of the maladies of age (some of which are worse than others), I far prefer it to youth.


Shirley said...

I'm with you...I wouldn't want to be young again. It's so liberating to be able to do what you want and not worry that someone will be offended or it will affect your position. There's so much more to life than a career and power. Having those things are stressful and exhausting.

I know, I've been there and am much happier where I am now.

Anonymous said...

So, you have struck a chord with many of us, it seems...and, I might add, not surprisingly. Reaching the point in our lives where the scales finally begin to tip toward "real" has been a wonderful experience, indeed! Not having to worry about the superficial stuff, about being driven or about what makes the world around us happy has been incredibly freeing. I am more than content to leave "being young" to youth...I love life right where I am! Thank you for echoing my own sentiments!

Anonymous said...

I guess I am in the minority. I don't like being older and I wish I were young again - that is, with the wisdom I have now! I would do a lot of things differently. I never really felt the insecurity of youth, so that's not a problem, and while I don't think I would want to be in my teens again, I would love to re-do my 20s and 30s. Of course, I would still want the same family I ended up with today - this is much more about me and the things I would do with and for myself.

Perpetual Chocoholic said...

I just want my 18 year old body back with everything else from now. Is that too much to ask?

bella rum said...

Here! Here! I'm so "there."

My son is a mover and a shaker. I try not to mention the word balance too often, but without it so much of life is missed.

Great post.