Aging Out and Owning Up

Early this fall, I went to Creative Alliance’12, a weekend in Ojai with some forty other creative types to bond and hang out and help each other grow to our next stages. The last night, about half of us read our current work out loud. Funny, sad, shocking, poignant–each of us had something that was important for us to say. Here was mine:

I feel I’m on the cusp of something…going on and up. Or maybe not.

I’m older than most of you; does that make a difference?

When I first started blogging, went to my first BlogHer in 2006, I still looked and seemed young enough that I felt I could pass. I was actually 61. If you’d asked, I’d admit to 51–okay, maybe 47. I was still one old chick for that BlogHer crowd, and I was, quite obviously, long past the point of being a mommyblogger. But I loved the world of blogging, the blogosphere, the bloggers and I wanted them to if not love me back than at least respect me and count me as one of their number.

And so I entered the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Age closet (DADTA). What I felt so strongly then was that I was, despite my years, still in the upward trajectory of my career. I had the same ambitions as bloggers in their 20s and 30s or 40s, so why should the fact that I wasn’t shut the door for me? But I’m essentially such a straight arrow that I had a hard time even trying to lie about my age. I would only do it when some site demanded I give my year of birth. Then I would close my eyes, shut my nose and say, 1955. But even at that I was still older than most of my colleagues.

Did it matter? Yes, it did. It’s about that authentic self thing, you know. The Jane who was born in 1945 comes with an array of memories and experiences that have made her who she is. Lopping off the first ten years of them had the effect, as any psychologist could tell you, of denying the foundation of my formative years. So, just as I decided to stop coloring my hair–who the hell did I think I was kidding, after all–I decided to own up to my age.

Out of the Age Closet…

I did it first with a 38 year old friend. We were buying tickets to see a movie, and I asked for the Senior rate. When she questioned that, I flipped my driver’s license at her. There, in all it’s glory, was my birthdate: July 3rd, 1945. She was shocked, but she didn’t turn heel and run and she has remained my friend. I took from that some reassurance that I’m not too old for this gig. Except–now I’m not so sure.

Whereas before I still saw myself as on the upward trajectory of my career, now I’m thinking I may have crossed some threshold. When I started MidLifeBloggers in 2008, I was one of the very few in my demographic pool. I envisioned a place where as our tagline said, we could make the most of midlife together. In my mind’s eye, I saw a site that would offer the best of what the consciousness raising sessions gave us back in the 70s–support, friendship, a voice and a place to grow. I also saw MidLifeBloggers as tapping into the glory of all that marketing.

After seven plus years blogging and four of nurturing MidLifeBloggers, I am for the first time surrounded by others who have blogs similar to mine. Women and men with the same goals. I wouldn’t say the blogosphere is actually crowded with midlifebloggers, but there is definitely an active community of us. And they are a vocal community. And an energetic community. And that has made me question my place in the blogosphere. They are all about the act of becoming and of creating a midlife that is rich and nurturing and, yes, grabbing some of that marketing pie the mommybloggers have long enjoyed. I look at what they’re writing and doing and I think–been there, done that, have several t-shirts to show for it.

Are My Days of Wanting to Be Over?

So once again I’m asking myself: what do I want to be when I grow up? Or, more correctly, as I grow old? People used to ask me what the age boundaries for MidLifeBloggers was and I said, “you’re in midlife as long as you think you are.” Now I think maybe I’m not in midlife anymore. I think maybe I’ve moved into a different arena.  But does that mean I have to give up MidLifeBloggers?

I just looked at our header and the tag line: Making the Most of Midlife Together. What if I just stuck a couple more words in there: Making the Most of Midlife and Beyond Together. Would that work? If I really portray my authentic self on-line, if I tell the good and the bad, the lumps, bumps and burrows of growing old, will I just be seen as that old biddy that won’t stop hanging around? Can I gather a community of midlifers and beyond around me? Should I try? Or should I just go gracefully into the night?

That I’m even here, telling you this, is, I think, the answer. Or maybe not.

And thus begins a dialogue I’m having with you and you and anyone else who has an opinion. I’ll be writing more about this–as it occurs to me.

 

 

  • isabel

    I think the best bloggers/writers are true and honest to who they really are. And in fact, the older you are, the better insight you may have!

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Amen, Isabel, amen. And ditto, as well!

  • Marci

    I love this post, and relate to it on so many levels…I started blogging at the prime age of 55, so I have the quaint honor of being a babe-in-the-blogging-woods at midlife. I still have dreams of what I want to be “when I grow up,” and I hope I have them until my last breath. One of the great joys of life is to dream, to become, to study and learn and achieve. That shouldn’t end just because one was born in 1945 or in 1956. I’ll tell you my answer to your question of whether or not you’re still in midlife, and I have to quote you back to you: “You are still in midlife if you think you are.” Midlife is actually a great tag, because it denotes in medias res—we are in the middle of things and we will ALWAYS be in the middle of things until, well, until we aren’t anymore. Own your own beautiful, ageless, midlife self and embrace it. These words come to you from someone who went back to college in her late 20s/early 30s and finished her bachelor’s degree with young 20-somethings. Don’t define yourself by the groups around you…just BE. xoxom

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Marci,
      I think still being in midlife is wanting to question where midlife actually is! The term in media res just came to me, fancy Latin for in the middle of things. Those things are not defined and they certainly have no sell-by date. I wasn’t questioning my place in the arena so much as where I actually wanted it to be. And that is the stuff of another post.

  • http://twitter.com/notasupermom Anne Parris

    You really inspire me, Jane. I think I am as young as my goals and ambition. I still want things for myself and I feel like the post-momming years are a great time to go after my dreams.

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Thanks, for your kind words, Anne. This post was really the beginning of a conversation I’m having with myself. I see that I need to keep on with documenting it. Stick with me!

  • Phyllis Edson

    We’re only as old as we think we are. I’m closer to 50 than 40 but feel like i’m in my 20′s. Yet, one of my close friends is in her 70′s. I’ve decided I can dwell on my age or just have a great time not doing that. I’m going with the latter. My oldest child is leaving for college in the fall. I do wish that I could do that again because I would have so much more fun this time.

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Phyllis, I agree with you about the choice we make to dwell on our age or not. Documenting it, however, has become important to me. In some ways, I see myself as the advance guard for all of you who are younger.

      • ukgardenfiend

        I empathise with you Jane. I went back to uni in my 40s… and 50s..again. I know several people getting PhDs in their 50s and starting or at least, re-working their careers as more opportunities come their way. Our brains are still good – if we keep them exercised and we need to keep our bodies exercised too in order for that to work. A circular exercise? I too have many physical issues and my doctors tell me to keep doing what I’m doing. Keep on working – part-time – and keep on exercising in whatever form I can – and keep my brain well greased.. I’m under contract to write a book, so that’s surely working! We are the mental age we think we are, and I’m defintiely not over 60!

        • JaneGassner

          UK Garden Fiend–

          Snap, as we Yanks say when two people do the same thing at the same time. I went to graduate school in my 40s and 50s as well. Got my first MA at 47. Finished the coursework and exams for my PhD at 51. Got my second MA at 61. The brain works well; the issue has always been how hiring committees view older candidates. There was a lot of discussion when I was applying for teaching jobs about how to soften the fact that I had gotten my BA in 1968.

          • ukgardenfiend

            I guess I was lucky there as I was already in post – I had been taken on as a temp without the MSc and then as I started the PhD I was given a full-time job at another uni. At that time, experience of business was required more than PhDs and I had had articles published while I was undertaking my Masters so… I have taken a couple of further MA modules but really couldn’t take another exam…now i am considered an important part of my uni and even a serious researcher… Just goes to show.

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  • Dorian G

    Throughout most of my career, I have been one of the lucky ones, seldom feeling much discrimination as I navigated the workplace. I was early to the Interwebz so I even missed the Clueless Newbie label so frequently lobbed at anyone who isn’t a Digital Native. But this Age Thing? Pure unmitigated nightmare. I don’t have the luxury of owning up to it. I don’t care about my personal life but my clients or would-be-clients are primarily twenty-thirty-something. They look at anyone past their Dirty Thirty party as not hire-able, either for a project or a job. The code word is: RESONATE. When you start hearing that … “I’m not sure you’ll RESONATE with our primary target…” that’s the age discrimination clue. And groups like Encore, while being useful if you want to find volunteer/social good work, reinforce the idea that at a certain age we should not expect to be paid. I have to earn a living … somehow. Thankfully, despite the rough patches I have endured in this life, I still have a ton of energy, am geekier than most, and am still sort-of in that blurry age stage. Still, I can’t take the chance of more clients inviting me to lunch (I assume to discuss a new project) and then discovering (oops), they invitation was about hiring my (brilliant) twentysomething kidlet! I am so glad to have stumbled upon this wonderful blog and I think you are awesome, Jane. It’s funny; I almost went to that Ojai conference but couldn’t afford it. I would have loved to meet you f2f. Thank you for so authentically sharing what is a growing issue for me and many of our ‘kin.’

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Dorian G, Save your shekels for CA’14 (the Ojai conference) because I’d love to meet you f2f as well. We would have so much to talk about. I could go through your comment and take up any number of threads to respond to! Where do you actually live?

  • Jan

    Do not go gracefully into the dark night. I found your blog while pondering about starting one myself for the first time at 56. I laughed about your movie outing with your younger friend as it sounded familiar. Once I was the baby among my friends and now I often am the oldest. I think your voice is extremely relevant and you have added something to my day so thank you.

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Thanks, Jan. Have you finished pondering about starting a blog? What’s the url? We want to visit!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathleenlwalker Kathy Hicks Walker

    I am 42. I don’t know if that is considered midlife or not. I remember when I was young thinking just how old my mom was even though only 23 years separate us. Now, I find myself single at the same age she was when we would hit the bars together and she no longer seems that old, but still more grown up than I will ever be at any age she ever was.

    What led me to your site was a bad tv show who featured someone who did life casting. I realized what I do is life blogging and did a search. it led me to Midlife Bloggers. What I have found here is a group of ADULTS. Some who are going through the same as me, some who have experienced far more than me and some who have experienced what I never will. They all inspire me in ways I couldn’t imagine.

    This is your baby Jane. You have nurtured it and watched it grow. I don’t think it matters if you are midlife or a little bit past. What I think is important is that you have surrounded yourself with kindred spirits who not only share the love of writing, but also thought enough of this blog site to want to be a part of it.

    As far as your tag line – my thought was Making the Most of (Mid)Life together. I think that encompasses all of us in our various stages of life. We are all going to grow past that midlife, but as long as we surround ourselves with like-minded individuals who share our passion – age doesn’t mean a thing. (Hmmm – I may have just killed my logic for not wanting to date much younger men there – lol)

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Kathy,
      I think our mothers were much more “older” than we are. Or maybe it just seemed that way because they were our Mothers! I learned a lot about living from my mom, not the least of which is my attitude toward midlife.

  • Priska

    I was born in 1955 and am one of those you mentioned just starting out. Mentors like yourself inspire to hang in there, to keep finding my voice and not give up when the going gets scary, you feel stuck and worried about judgment.

    To me, we have been granted an extra 30 years of life. Those extra years have been granted as mid life years. Thus a mid lifer is somewhere between 40-80.

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Priska,
      You’re right that we have an extra 30 years of life. That’s why the rules our parents followed don’t work for us. I guess we’ll have to continued making it up as we go along.

  • Pjpusser3@rcn.com

    More and more I think at a certain point life begins to feel over– just saw Amour — a very depressing French movie supposedly about a couple in their eighties– but just as easily could have been in their sixties. And it’s message seems to be we are all alone. Sorry to be so down but the movie hit home as does the stale mate in our gov’t. I am simply not being represented by our gov’t and therefore my life is what I alone can make it.

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Laur–Read the reviews of Amour and saw how it could be depressing. Do you think the director knew that?

  • SharonGreenthal

    Jane, as one of the first midlife bloggers I connected with when I started blogging in mid-2011, you have always been someone I’ve respected as a writer and as a person of knowledge about blogging. This has nothing to do with your age, and everything to do with your experience and smarts.

    You must keep going! You are not old – therefore, you are at midlife. It’s all in our heads anyway, correct?

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Sharon, I remember the first time you wrote to me. It’s those connections, that people that I’ve helped on the road to blogging/writing that mean the most to me. I want to focus on doing more of that and–as I said to Rita–developing more as a writer.

  • http://twitter.com/ritaarens Rita Arens

    This is your blog. If you want to transition it, you should do it. For a practical reason — if you start a different blog, you’ll break all your old links. :)

    I started my blog as a mommyblog and then I published a book. And then I wrote a novel. And even though I am still friends with all my bloggy friends and am interested in them and their lives, and even though I still post pictures and sometimes stories about my daughter, my blog has morphed into one with more of a publishing focus. My Twitter stream is full of literary agents and book marketers and reviewers. My interests have left diapers and moved on to galleys. I’m 38 now and often think of myself as a midlifer because I expected I’ll live to be about 80, maybe older, but 80 doesn’t seem unrealistic. I’m sure if I still have my blog in ten more years when I’m definition midlifer, I’ll be writing about something completely different.

    Back when I started blogging in 2004, it seemed like a blog had to be about something, and if you wanted to write about something else, you had to get a new blog. I’d say that holds true for service blogs, like food blogs or craft blogs, but for those of us who are essayists, I don’t think it’s true at all.

    As for your age, I remember being delighted the first time I realized I had a friend who was my parents’ age but liked me and not them. It’s true our society worships youth, but individuals value people, at least the ones you want to be around do. :) Go, Jane!

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Rita,
      I have your book–signed by you, no less–but I didn’t know you’d moved on from momblogging. One of the reasons I started MidLifeBloggers was because I felt so shut out of that mommyblogger genre. But literary agents and book marketers and reviewers–that’s right up my alley. In fact, one of the things I’m contemplating and a main reason for coming out of the [age] closet is that I realize I haven’t grown as a writer. I’m taking the easy way, the safe way with blogging. I want to change that. I want to scare myself. It scared me to put this post out at Creative Alliance ’12 and it scared me to post it here. Now I need to find some new scary terrain.

  • http://www.thedivaofdating.com/ Walker

    It seems to me that to define midlife as ‘we’ envision it is not about the literal mid-point in life…but the idea that we are in the middle of a transition, working, exploring and growing have no age limits. I say… Keep On Going!

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Walker, I’ve written about this before, not the least of which was when I started MidLifeBloggers. And just yesterday, I wrote a chastising email to the people who are doing that midlife reality show: they have 60 as the cutoff age.

  • Jay

    If it feels good, you keep doing it. It’s that simple. And it doesn’t hurt to know that people want to read what you have to say.

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Jay, Yeah–you’re right. It’s simple. But sheesh, the easiest things are often a bear to do. Like dieting…that’s another simple thing: eat less. That people want to read what I have to say–aw, shucks…..

  • Cyndi L

    At 59, I just started blogging and am learning that there is a whole life out there that I never thought about when I was younger. I say keep on with whatever gives you a sense of purpose and fulfillment until it does’t, then find something else.

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Cyndi, This post is part of my constant questioning of what in my life gives me that sense of purpose and fulfillment. With MidLifeBloggers, that has always come from providing an arena for other bloggers to grow as bloggers and writers. I’m less interested in the monetization thing, which unfortunately seems to be a steady drumbeat all around me.

  • Jim parrish

    I think we must forget about age as a group. Aging is an
    individual process and we must retain our individuality. I start my day by
    examining what I am and what I am capable of as an individual with needs and capabilities unique to me and my situation. My chronological age is 71 but myphysical capabilities are closer to my 30’s. I am restricted by injuries and cancer treatments but they do not define my ability. The doctor’s told me to restrict my physical activity during treatment and I attempted to follow their
    instructions. Guess what? They do not know my body and mental needs. I tried their suggestions and I felt worse, so I went back to my routine and I am feeling better.

    Listen to your body and your emotional needs and stay active,
    the rest will take care of itself.

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Jim,
      I agree that aging is an individual process. I think what I’m debating myself about here has more to do with how outsiders perceive me. I know that is a one-way street to doom, but it’s a hard habit to break. In some ways, I envy those who can just BE, willy nilly of others’ opinions. I can do it to a certain extent, but there’s always a point at which I pull back. As for your experience with your doctors–absolutely, we know our body best, especially if we’ve spent time getting in tune with it.

  • http://twitter.com/LynneSpreen Lynne Spreen

    Jane, you might also want to read “Secrets of the Grown-Up Brain” by NYTimes science editor Barbara Strauch. She offers tons of evidence (legitimate, ironclad research) that you’re just hitting your peak, that there are many wonderful aspects to the older brain that young people can’t hope to touch. Also, she defines midlife as not young/not elderly. Cheers!

    • http://midlifebloggers.com janegassner

      Thanks for the suggestion, Lynne. I see that you’ve reviewed it on your blog. My issues have nothing to do with my brain; it’s usually done right by me. What I’m more aware of is my energy level…and just my desire to get up and go.

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