What Stage Is This?
Everyone is the age of their heart.
— Guatemalan saying
A conversation with a mother of 3-year old twins in which she said: “Bart is in a shy stage” as he walked by, totally ignoring me, got me wondering what stage I am in at this moment in my 67-year old life.
Frankly, there are days when I don’t feel like talking to anyone, either. Put me in a room of people talking and laughing and I clam up, nothing to say and no one to say it to. Can I shrug it off as my “shy stage” or does everyone consider me rude? The beauty of being a 60-something is that I don’t care what they think. It’s been a long journey here, and I don’t take it for granted.
When I was in my 20’s, I was so concerned about what everyone thought of me. This might be referred to as the I-am-so-afraid-that-you-won’t-like-me-I’ll-do-anything-for-you stage. I’m amazed that I survived that decade, but I owe it to my ability to be a chameleon.
My 30’s were a bit better; it’s when I became a mother. Having responsibility for another life is a great reality-tester, totally annihilating the decade in which I cared about the thoughts of others. I might call my third decade the how-the-hell-do-I-keep-this-screaming-human-alive stage, which will make a person grow up whether she likes it or not. I can’t recall whether I liked it or not, making it an irrelevant aspect of this stage.
The 40’s were a serious stage. I began to feel like an adult. I hated it. My job and family were all-consuming. Homework, meals, commuting, meetings, expectations, responsibilities. I was an after thought in my own mind. Looking back, I recall total exhaustion and lack of fun. This might best be remembered as will-I –survive-my-own-life stage, and if I do, will I have the strength to carry on (note, I did and I do).
My 50’s. Now that was a great decade. I retired from work that didn’t quite fit me and evolved into a career that was fun. This decade could best be termed as the finally-shedding-the chameleon-skin stage. I asked myself what I wanted. I did what I wanted. My kids were gone, my career was behind me, and I was in a place where the skin that never felt like it belonged to me was finally tossed into the trash. Sometimes I miss that skin, I admit, because I had gotten used to railing against a life and roles that were thrust upon me. Once it was over, I was in charge of me, of creating my life and my own happiness. But, getting used to the freedom created the possibility of the 60’s.
Yep, here I am, in the stage that is the culmination of all that has come before me. The weight of others’ opinions, coping, seriousness, and fun have created the possibility of the 60’s. It’s I-have-made-it-this-far-and-I-know-what-matters-to-me stage. I’ve got 10 precious years to hone it, and prepare for the stages yet to come.
I know they’ll be great, just like the others, now that I view them with compassion and in hindsight.
Hello, I’m Janet, career coach, writer, workshop leader.
I help women create their best lives through personal writing.