Today is my birthday.
Today I’m officially in my late forties, closer to 50 than 45. A funny thing I’ve noticed: I’ve been saying I’m 48 for months. When does that happen? When do we start promoting ourselves to the next age, before we even get there? I think at some point we begin to lose count.
I wondered whether to state my age. It doesn’t really matter how old I am. I recall when I was in my 20s and new in my broadcast journalism career, getting older worked to my advantage. I had more experience, no longer considered green. I gained credibility. My phone calls requesting interviews were returned more quickly. People stopped treating me like a kid.
Then, as I approached 30, I was gripped with a sense of pressure and panic. There were so many things I’d expected to accomplish by that age. I’d checked some boxes. But other boxes remained unchecked. I was suddenly in a rush, fearing if I didn’t hurry up, I’d miss the proverbial boat.
Those arbitrary timelines and deadlines—completely made up by society—are still in place. So many of us wonder, is it too late for me?
And now, approaching 50, I’m at the age where I question whether I should say the number out loud, just let people think I’m younger than I am. I notice that already, even though I still feel healthy, attractive, and vital, the ads on Instagram aren’t really marketing their products to me. Even though I still use them.
I feel compassion for my younger self. I know why she was in a panic. It wasn’t all in her head. There are still plenty of gatekeepers out there who want to tell you that time’s up.
I’m currently at a writing retreat, up before dawn, writing this newsletter. I look at the clock. Five minutes left in my 47th year. It feels like a spiritual countdown. Writing – when I get in the flow – is still the thing that feels most like me. I first noticed this feeling in college. Writing is timeless.
At this retreat, there are women here who are about my age. Some are older, by a decade or more. Last night we talked about our goals and intentions for the retreat, and for our writing in general. There are no timelines here, no one saying it’s too late to publish that essay or book. These women are doing the thing.
Yes, there’s an awareness of our own mortality. The older we get, the more we shake loose from the lie that we’re invincible, that we have all the time in the world. Here, we collectively agree: It’s time to stop putting off the business of living our life. Even though life is so very hard sometimes.
But also, if I want to get all Oprah about it and state something I know for sure: It’s wise to let go of the timelines, those arbitrary timelines set in place by society that does nothing but steal our joy.
On my 48th birthday, I want to encourage anyone who needs to hear it: Let go of any belief that says you’re too old, or that you’re too young, to do this or that. Do your own thing. Pave your own way. That’s my birthday wish.
I believe in you.