I’m in my mid 40’s, closer to 50 than 40, really. I’m active, I eat well, I nurture my mind and sleep sweetly, most nights. I have a lot to feel good about. And, I was happy about this until I received proofs from a photoshoot with mostly 20-somethings. Cringe.
To be clear, the experience, the photographer and participants could not have been more amazing, kind, professional or welcoming. The experience was truly wonderful.
It’s the realization that no matter how healthy I eat, how well groomed … it is impossible to out run, out moisturize, outwit your way to a 20-somethings figure and mindset once you are, in fact, a woman of a certain age.
Yup. The grey hair I choose to let grow in, the rounded hips, the pinches and pulls of clothes cut for bodies half my age were so obvious in the photos, it was clear that no matter how youthful I feel, I could have been the mom of the group.
At first, I thought, why? I am so dedicated to my health and wellbeing, yet comparatively, I looked old, short, fat and tired. I sighed as I sat in my home studio looking over pictures I pulled from a photo album of my younger self. In each picture I was thinner, laughing and smiling and remembered how self-critical I was when they were taken. I also began to remember how much was going on around the event when the picture was taken.
Then it hit me: Perception, just like a picture, is a glimpse to a moment of time that does not tell the whole story.
When I was in my 20’s I was working to develop myself, just as the beauties at the photoshoot are working on themselves. Then I had energy and curiosity that was voracious; I knew I was going somewhere, I just didn’t know where that path would take me. As I aged, after I was secure in my home and finances, and the path was starting to clear, I learned how take that energy and knowledge and apply it to others. My work became that of service to those older than I, recovering from or managing debilitating injuries and diseases. And in that moment, I found appreciation for the pictures I now consider lovely. I am proud to be the oldest among the 20-somethings of that day because we are all sharing a piece of the same path. It doesn’t mean that I am without worry I will be judged because of the obvious age difference. I just don’t care. The pictures are a snapshot of a moment. They do not tell the story.
When I went through the proofs again, looking to approve a headshot, I saw with a new eye. With a new appreciation for grey hair, rounded hips designed to give birth, the softness that comes to the human form as we walk into a middle age that is secure, where needs and wants are met, the wisdom lines on the forehead, the gentle wrinkles around the eyes indicating the sight that comes only with age, I thought, how lucky am I? At this studio and others I stand among those on the same path as I.
And, in a moment, I realized something I suspect so many of us women-of-a-certain-age forget. We may feel those younger than us in our careers, have the looks we can no longer compete with. But, we have experience and substance. If we look to bridge the gap with mentorship, guidance and shared experiences we can create a story of unification. And, if we do our job right and don’t compare, don’t hide from, exclude or ignore, we can help those who will take on the challenge of helping us as we continue to age gracefully.
All in all, a great story to share.
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