I woke up this morning feeling nervous because I knew I was going to write this post. I’ve been thinking about it for days and decided I was going to do it, but have been working hard to convince myself that I was really going to do it. It feels like something I shouldn’t say, like I’m letting go of a big secret I’m supposed to guard ferociously. But, for me today, I have to do it.
I’m 50 years old. Today. A half-century. Half of a hundred. HALF OF A HUNDRED!!
I’m waiting for my world to implode.
I’m not sure when this became such a big deal. Except for from close friends and family, my age is a secret I’ve guarded for years. As far back as I can remember, my circle of friends has mostly been younger than me. I’ve almost always dated younger men. At some point I started to feel shame associated with the number of years I’ve walked this earth. I began telling people I was six years younger than I am. I would write my birthdate as 1972 instead of 1966. And a tiny part of me started to believe it.
One reason I became so acutely aware of my ancient status is that I became an actor in my 30’s. It was a career change for me. I was starting over at age 37 and taking classes. I was in school with “young people” in their 20’s. When I started doing community theatre I was always the oldest person in the company. I began to feel embarrassed that I wasn’t further along in my career, at my age. Because I started over in my late 30’s, and chose a career where it’s very challenging to make any money, I’ve never owned anything. I rent an apartment and my car is 16 years old and I’m still making payments on it to my sister. I’m single, have never been married and I don’t have children. The path I chose for my life isn’t the conventional one.
I moved to Los Angeles six years ago at age 44 to pursue an on-camera acting career. I might as well have been a dinosaur skull. When I moved to LA I began examining my face in a way I never had before. I found and pondered every wrinkle, sunspot, and potential wrinkle and tried to find magic potions that would turn back the wrinkle clock. And I REALLY began working hard at telling myself and others that I was younger than I was. I loved it (and still do if I’m honest) when people guessed my age and told me they thought I was ten years younger than I am. Youth is currency in this town. But, the thing is, as I get older my younger, fake age gets older too. Now, my fake age is “over the hill.”
Trying to keep the secret has been wearing on me. It takes a lot of energy to pretend to be something you’re not. I’m tired of worrying that someone might find out how old I am. I’m tired of expending energy worrying about someone not liking me because of my age. Or worrying that they think less of me because I’m not more advanced in my career at my age or don’t own something or have something that I’m supposed to have at my age. I’m tired of feeling ashamed of the birth year on my drivers license.
I’m proud of what I’ve done in 50 years. I’ve had several different careers. I followed my heart and moved from Alabama to New York City on a whim and lived there for 15 years. I’ve cultivated strong friendships, even in my 40’s. I picked up and moved to Los Angeles without a job. I started a new career in my late-30’s because I wanted to follow my creative passion rather than punch a clock. I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve done a one-woman show without my clothes on. I wrote and produced a short film. I’ve done cabaret shows in New York City. I’ve gone camping alone. I went back to school in my 40’s for nutrition. I’m starting yet another career as a food blogger. I’ve been on TV. I can dead lift my body weight. I’ve loved with all my heart and been loved.
I’ve been very nervous about this birthday. I think I thought I’d turn 50 and be irrelevant. That people would stop loving me. That I wouldn’t be good enough. That I wouldn’t be enough. That the good things in life would be over.
I have a good friend who says she hates it when people say they can’t do something because of their age. Age shouldn’t limit us at all. In fact it should empower us.
I have a pretty good list of accomplishments. I can’t wait to add more to it. Instead of letting age limit me I’m choosing to let age empower me.
I was born July 12, 1966, a half-century ago. I’m proud of that.