I turned 57 on Monday. Not a milestone birthday, but still there was an element of awe at the years that have flown by so very fast. And some healthy introspection that’s more about looking back over memories, the choices I’ve made and everything that has brought me to where I am now from way back when in those early uncertain roller coaster years.
I love birthdays – and not just mine, any birthday for family or friends – the celebration of another year ahead, another exciting chapter ahead to do more, say more, be more. Yet there’s also a part of the occasion that makes me pause. Age is simply a number, we know that. In no way should it define us, and yet why is it that sometimes we still feel the need to validate our age? After all, do we really feel that much different as each one comes along?
In all honesty I don’t feel so different to when I was in my 30s and 40s. A few more achievements under my belt, a little wiser hopefully, and definitely a greater sense of confidence than I had ploughing through my 20s – but on the whole, still the same me. And that’s the point. The number changes, but the core of who we are, our values and aspirations continue through the years much the same. It’s just the next step and, if anything, I’m stronger now to do this than I have ever been. So my age most definitely doesn’t define me.
Yet negative age-related attitudes and stereotypes would still, sadly, have us believe otherwise. It’s exhausting sometimes being a midlife woman with the sense that we need to prove ourselves across so many areas of society. We have to work twice as hard to be heard, and while it does seem easier to sit confidently alongside today’s generation than it ever was in our parent’s day, I feel we definitely have to add greater substance to what we want to achieve than our younger counterparts.
If I were to take my birthday wish right now, it would be for an ageless society. And to be fair, as life expectancy increases, the perception of age boundaries is starting to shift, chipping away at the notion that we have to adopt some sort of middle-age persona that is ‘age-appropriate’. Plus we are more vocal now in challenging the misconceptions of what midlife looks like and rising above the pockets of ageism that seem to linger on.
So this year is going to be about celebrating my age. Proud of all that I have achieved. Thankful for those years behind me that have led me here – happy, positive and confident to be the very best version of who I am – and content in the knowledge that our age will never, ever define us – it is who we are that does. I absolutely refuse to see my age as anything other than just a number.