I suppose you could say that I spent my 20s and 30s finding my own voice and my own agency, but it was not evident to me at the time. It felt more like trying to make my way through a maze that promised something unknown at the end. I knew I needed to graduate from college and eventually get a job, and I was pretty sure I wanted to be in a relationship that wasn’t torturous. Aside from those lofty, nebulous goals, I really had no other plan. I certainly wasn’t thinking about developing a strong sense of myself or contemplating the impact I wanted to make in the world.
Even when I started going to therapy in my mid-30s, I thought it was because I was depressed and making a mess of most of my relationships. I wasn’t conscious of the fact that I was also attempting to build a strong, confident person. In every job, every partnership, every house, and every new interest, I was slogging along, but I was also adding weight to the human that I was becoming. Even when I felt less than confident, I would look back and realize that I had gained some ground. I wasn’t quite as defensive, I felt braver about setting boundaries, and I had taken had taken some risks that surprised me.
So many of us are truly discovering our voices for
the first time.
In what seemed like no time at all, I was in my 50s and 60s and I felt very different from that young woman who sort of fell from one thing to another, with little intention and even less purpose. I began to realize that there was substance to me. It was like working out regularly and only accidentally noticing the changes in your body or your weight. The work I’d done as a grown-up human was beginning to show. I could distinguish myself from other people, I had opinions I was willing to share, and I started setting goals for myself beyond the ones I’d just moved to by rote.
Now that I am old, racing toward 70, I feel so much fuller and richer. Of course the whole point is that we grow as we go, but it seems unfair that we are at our biggest and best when we are this far along. It’s so easy at this point to figure this is the last race. Our kids are grown, we’re retiring from our jobs, and we’re downsizing. And yet, many of us still have so much to do and say. And so many of us are truly discovering our voices for the first time.
Instead of using our power and agency to get kids through high school or manage the family budget or keep an office going, we have the chance at this end to expand ourselves in all new ways. We can write, speak, and create. We can demand to be seen as serious contenders. We can change the tone of a room with our words and actions. This really is our time to shine, in whatever arena we choose. It takes courage, to be sure, but not as much as it did when we were young.
More than anything, it requires looking inside this treasure chest of experiences and lessons and realizing all that we’ve built and accumulated. Most women my age are really just coming into our true prime. We're realizing every day that this is not the time to sit demurely on the porch swing and let young people do the heavy lifting.
If we’ve always imagined doing something brave and even outrageous, this is the time to do it. This is our chance to paint, draw, sing, write, profess, travel, and move our bodies. We have waited for what seems like forever for this chance to do it. Yesterday, during a bone scan, the technician measured my height and told me I was an inch shorter than I’d imagined I was. In my brain, that read “smaller,” something she said that happens to many women my age. Since I don’t feel smaller in any way, this bothered me. I went home and measured myself and found that I was exactly the height I’d always been. But I’m not exactly the same person. I’m so much more than that. Just wait and see.