The New Forty
I have a question for Albert. (Albert Einstein, that is.)
If time is relative, why can’t I get it to slow down or speed up when I want it to? I'm sure he’d say it’s complicated…
What I've deduced over 60 years of my own empirical research is that the speed at which time moves is directly proportional to the opposite desire of the subject. How’s that for an equation?
I watched it slow down when I wanted to be done with washing bottles and changing diapers and move on to sippy cups and toddler underwear. Then, it slowed again when I wanted it to hurry up so that all three children could be in school all day. Oh, and during the adolescent years of my three offspring, yes--I wanted time to move at the speed of light.
Time accelerates for vacation days, holidays, and birthdays, and decelerates for paydays. If I didn’t know better, I would say that it has a mind of its own, with no interest in fairness.
I had lingering emotions as I approached 60. In my 20s, I thought that one was very old and ready to transition by 60. What I had witnessed had 60 on the “rough side of the mountain,” with no way up.
My father’s mother and a string of other relatives had died at or around 60. They were considered “old,” and to me, they looked and acted that way, too. I thought you had to have dentures and arthritis by then, along with lots of gray hair or a wig. I had those thoughts and feelings during the diapering years when time was moving at a glacial pace. I thought time would always keep that same pace. 60 seemed an eternity away.
That experience of time and aging belonged to a previous generation. To say life was difficult for my ancestors would be a gross understatement. When I look back at photos of my ancestors, it looks like they aged rapidly. Their bodies bore the brunt of generations of abuse that has yet to work its way out of our collective ancestral body. Thankfully, time has brought about many transitions for society as a whole.
The declaration that “50 is the new 40,” which I suspect came about as Boomers aged, has become a part of the zeitgeist of our time, and it shows. I imagine Boomers looked back at photos of their grandparents and decided they were not having it. There’s something to be said for self-preservation, declarations, and the right amount of vanity.
Nevertheless, in this country, with all the societal transitions and Boomer intervention, aging is STILL not embraced, valued, or honored. At least, that’s what I see and struggle with. Do I appreciate being respectfully referred to as “ma’am,” or do I not want to be reminded that I’m considered a senior citizen? When I think about my next career-related move, will I miss out on opportunities because a long-term commitment would see me into my seventies? Will consulting be my best option, and is that okay?
In many sectors, 60 is considered seasoned and experienced if you’re a white male, but over the hill and irrelevant if you’re a woman. And add even more layers to that glass ceiling if you’re African American.
I don’t struggle to stay relevant; I know that I am. But I don’t exist in a bubble, and I can’t remove the lens through which society perceives me and others like me. I’m learning to be okay with that. I have to since I can’t stop or slow time.
At times I skip between excitement and worry about it all in the same day. Excitement can seem to be a lapping concern or only ahead by a nose… but it’s winning.
While the pace of time seems more rapid than ever, the pace of aging seems to have slowed. I realize that medical breakthroughs, and the like, contribute to a longer life. But it’s more than that. For me, it’s a transition in consciousness and how I see the world and my place in it. It’s the realization--no, make that belief--that I have all the time I need to do all that I am to do in this realm.
So, here at the beginning of 60, I can see myself at 100 declaring “100 is the new 80!”—but still with the understanding that all I really have is now.