Last February I went to Mammoth, snowboarding with some friends. (To be totally transparent, they snowboarded. I drank Pinot Noir.) In the bar I met a couple of women who were pushing 50, with teenaged kids. We got to talking about life, and I told them that at 49, I’d packed up my successful business to become a motivational writer and coach.
One of them said, “God, I wish I was as brave as you. I’ve always wanted to be a girls’ basketball coach. But it’s too late now. It just seems stupid. How would I even begin?”
She felt what so many women who are circling 50 feel:
It’s too late. That ship has sailed. If I was going to do it, I should have done it by now.
Since that time, I’ve spoken to hundreds of women between 45 and 60. And I’ve found an alarmingly common thread: almost every one of them has a dream that’s never been addressed. And they’ve decided to let those dreams go, because “50” is a force field that’s impossible – in their minds – to cross.
I’ve found three distinct groups of ladies my age who struggle with this the most:
The Retirement Pushers: These women have been in jobs or careers for 20 years or more, and they see retirement as the end. The Retirement Pusher feels like it’s foolish to switch gears now. She can finish this long, grueling haul that she started decades ago, so she must.
The I’m-Just-a-Moms: These women have been raising kids for 15, 20, or 25 years, and they don’t feel justified in doing anything else. The I’m-Just-a-Mom knows she’s qualified for something big and new, but thinks those things are reserved for women who started earlier in life.
The Shadow Dancers: In their 20’s, these women labeled their dreams as foolish, and chose related (but sensible) careers, instead. (I chose Marketing Manager over author at 20. Just in case I wasn’t Hemingway….) The shadow dancer’s dream has never died; but a little bit of her soul has, every day.
Here’s the good news, ladies:
Whether you dream of becoming a pastry chef, learning to surf, traveling to India by yourself, tap dancing at a recital, or opening an accounting firm, now is the PERFECT time.
Here are 5 reasons women over 50 are PERFECT for big, bold, new things:
1. We’re wise. It’s not the same as knowledgeable. Wise means we think and act using knowledge. Try this: grab a woman over 50 and give her detailed instructions for a task she’s never done before. After 45 seconds she’ll say, “Yeah, yeah. I get it. Let me do it.” And then she’ll shove you aside and do it her way… the more efficient way.
2. We can negotiate like hell. We’ve been finding ways to get what we want for decades. I’ve negotiated with husbands, toddlers, teenagers, airline ticket agents, hair dressers who wanna do their own thing, real estate agents, human resources directors, the DMV, the woman at the nursing home who refused to give my mom her pain meds, and the guy who showed up to fix my toilet and tried to hard-sell me a $10,000 water purification system. Women our age know how to say, “No” and how to get, “Yes.”
3. We’re effective. We are amazingly useful for achieving desired results. I can cook a delicious turkey dinner while simultaneously talking my 15-year-old down from a ledge, sending a follow-up email to a client, and planning my next vacation on Travelocity at a 30% discount. We’ve been conditioned to conquer tasks, while figuring them out. If you’ve got a complex problem to solve, who you gonna call? A recent college grad? Or one of your girlfriends over 50?
4. We’ve developed a sense of humor… about ourselves. A couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d try false eyelashes. Everyone is doing it, and I figured, “What the hell? If I can expertly super-glue a shattered vase back together in the 15 minutes before my mother-in-law shows up for dinner, I can surely get these suckers attached to my eyelids.” And when I looked in the mirror and saw a drag queen in Ugg boots, I laughed like hell. Every woman I know who’s my age can laugh at herself. And if you’re thinking that comes just as naturally for a younger woman, too, try teasing a millennial about her false eyelashes…
5. We’re resilient. I sometimes hear my friends say, “I don’t bounce back like I used to.” This is simply untrue. I’ve bounced back from divorce, crushing career blows, the painful loss of family members, more financial hitches than you can shake a stick at, and a full hysterectomy. What about you? There is simply not a single demographic group in the WORLD more resilient than 50-year-old women.
If we have everything it takes to be successful at something new, why do we feel like we’re unwarranted, unqualified, or silly for wanting to start something at “our age?”
Is it because we feel like time is running out? Because every article I read says that it takes seven years to be an expert at something. And ladies… we’ve GOT that much time. You could cruise through your late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s ― doing the very thing you’ve always wanted to do. I know I fully intend to.
Is it because we’re tired? I want to let you in on a little secret. You’re not tired. You’re tired OF something. I was tired of my old business. But I’m not tired of my new one. I’m energized, challenged, and entertained. If you’re tired of picking up socks off the floor, try putting on some Barry White and dancing around with a glass of wine. Too tired for that? I rest my case.
Is it because the world tells us we can’t? Ridiculous. We’ve all been doing things we weren’t supposed to do our whole lives. (Remember Macrame? Rollerblading? Microsoft DOS?) We are a LEGION of humans who have achieved things we were never meant to achieve.
I have realized that when a single, simple ingredient is added to the recipe for dreams at our age, they rise like perfect biscuits: PERMISSION.
That’s right. You have to give yourself permission. You have to ditch the story that’s holding you back, see what that new role looks like, slide it on like a bada** black trench coat, and wear it out into the street. You have to give yourself permission to be that woman.
You are the perfect age for this field trip, my friend, and you’ve got a hell of a lot more in your backpack than your sack lunch and your library books…
How many permission slips have you signed in your life? Isn’t it time you signed one for yourself?
Julia “Juju” Hook was a brand strategist for more than 25 years, before she gave herself permission to follow her true passion and calling, and became a writer, motivator, and coach. Her online program, Badass Permission Slip, provides women with a proven step-by-step system for becoming who they’ve always wanted to be.