December 24, 2015

50-something Going on 35: Why Being Wise, Funny, Experienced & Fearless are All Possible (& Necessary).


“You can be gorgeous at 30, charming at 40 and irresistible for the rest of your life.” ~ Coco Chanel


For the last four months, I have been serving as an apprentice for elephant journal.

As with many things in life, the opportunity to be part of the program sort of landed in my lap. One evening, not long before the application deadline, the post about the program showed up on my Facebook newsfeed. I used to have an interest in writing—in the age before laptops, touch screens and e-readers.

I hadn’t thought about writing in a long time. Life, with its assorted responsibilities, had gotten in the way. This current opportunity piqued my interest however—it appealed to the teenager inside, who once dreamed of big things and expressed herself in many artistic ways.

All kinds of self-doubt went through my head:

“Surely, I am not that great of a writer. It will be a bunch of young people. I am not up with all of the Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat stuff. They’ll think my past attempts at blog-writing are nice but not very interesting.”

But then I thought, “What the Hell do I have to lose?”

I said to myself, “Self—you do like to write, you are kind of funny, and you do know your way around Facebook.”

So, I put together the application silently, while my husband watched TV. I scrambled around, trying to find snippets of entertaining writing. I tried to be clever in explaining why I thought elephant journal needed me. I filled it all out and then—hesitated for just a moment. The self-doubt was starting to creep in again. I took a deep breath, then consciously and deliberately hit “submit.” It’s done now. No looking back.

And to be honest, I wasn’t looking backward or forward. By simply feeling brave enough to even apply, I felt accomplished. I just needed to send that out into the universe. It didn’t matter whether the folks at elephant journal had a good giggle or whether they liked my words or not. I did it. I went way out of my comfort zone. There were no expectations, and therefore, no potential disappointment. The challenge had already been completed, and I felt really good about it.

Fast forward—to my surprise, I was accepted to the Writing & Social Media Apprenticeship. I was suddenly something called an “Ele-apprentice.” (You see, we speak a separate language in Ele-World.) And, I was right—there are a lot of young people in the program. Some are really savvy about the Twitter-verse and such. And, I am sort of funny, and I can write.

But, I guess the thing that I didn’t realize was that this process was going to be as much about writing as it was about re-discovering the things that got my juices flowing. And indeed, it wasn’t all about what I was going to get out of the experience but also what I could bring to the experience.

Week by week, I joined the meetings and did the writing exercises that were required of us. I listened as much younger (mostly) women shared their hopes and interests, as well as frustrations with boyfriends and family. I wondered how some of the young mothers in the group managed to handle teething babies, sleepless nights and creative thoughts all at the same time.

One morning, in a small group meeting, I listened as my colleagues wrote about their young lives, hopes, fears, frustrations, and insecurities. These things seemed so foreign, and yet, so familiar. I had forgotten what it felt like to be 25 or even 30. I listened intently and thought, “I know these feelings. I remember thinking like they do. How is it that they don’t know that it is all going to be okay?”

“Trust me,” I said. “It does get better.”  And, then I said this, “Be true to yourself and good things will happen.”

I had no idea that this was going to be such a revelation, but it was met with great reverence. The group decided that I was very wise (which made me laugh out loud). I told them that it was just years of experience, and one day they would be this wise too. I am not sure they believed me—I wouldn’t have believed me at 25.

But somehow my words had made an impact. Who knew?

“Be true to yourself and good things will happen.”

It was actually kind of simple and clever. It just popped out of my mouth, but the more I pondered it, I thought, “Hey, I get it.”  I have been living this! This kind of thinking keeps us young. Thinking the opposite way ages us much more quickly.

So, ladies 50 and over—let’s review some “Dos and Don’ts” of living agelessly. And you “youngsters” follow along, as this will be very helpful.

Phrases that Show Our Age:

  • “I can’t do that. I am too old.”
  • “That’s for young people.”
  • “I won’t be able to learn something like that.”
  • “How could I do that by myself?”
  • “I have always done it this way.”
  • “Those clothes are too _________________ for me.” (Fill in the blank.)
  • “When I was young I used to do x, y or z—but not now.”
  • “I can’t.”

On the other hand, here are some phrases that will make those age lines melt away faster than any of those $100 wrinkle creams.

Affirmations that Enhance Our Youthful Beauty.

  • “I bet I can do that. I have done similar things before.”
  • “One day I might not be able to do this. I should do it now.”
  • “I remember that I always liked to do __________________. I wonder if this new technique is better?”
  • “Thank goodness I am such good company. I will go by myself.”
  • “This seems so much more efficient! So glad I don’t have to do it the old way.”
  • “Oh, I love that dress! I could rock that!” (Think Helen Mirren on Oscar night,)
  • “I can do x, y and z! Makes me feel good.”
  • “I can.” “I did.” “I will.”

There is a beauty in an “older woman” that needs to be shared with the world. We have wisdom and experience and insight. We didn’t get to this point easily, and we shouldn’t easily forget what it was like to be half our age.

Of course, we can impart good ideas and set an example for younger women who will soon take over the reins, but it is a two-way street. Not only must we remember what it is was like to be 25, 30, or 35, but we must look to our younger selves to enrich our own lives right now. Where did that young woman with all of the hopes and dreams go?

She didn’t go anywhere. She’s been here all of the time, and she wants to try new things:

  • She wants to learn how to play the piano.
  • She wants to take a photography class and take really beautiful pictures of the forest.
  • She wants to jump out of an airplane.
  • She wants to make a really beautiful cake—from scratch.
  • She wants to drive a car really fast on a speedway. (There’s a class for that.)
  • She wants to go to New York City.
  • She wants to glide down the Amazon, through the heat and mosquitoes.
  • She wants to find true love—again and for the first time.
  • She wants to say, “I did it!”

And she wants to tell her young friends, “You can do all these things—and more.”

Our apprenticeship program is coming to an end. In fact, if you are reading this, it means that the gods in “Ele-World” have determined that there is value in the words that I am sharing. This is my final apprenticeship submission. I write this as a sort of love letter to my young friends, who are so full of hope and anxiety and dreams.

But, just as much, I write it as a love letter to myself—to us.

I took the risk. I went for it.

And, suddenly—I do feel very wise.


Want to join our Summer Academy? Learn to write, blog, edit. Learn journalism ethics and gain social media prowess. Work and play with elephant editors including Waylon Lewis. Start a new career or just gain new skills: apply at elephantjournal.com/academy

Questions? Ask us! Email: [email protected]


Author: Pat Steele Nielsen

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Author’s own

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