Imagine my surprise when I woke up on my birthday to CNN host Don Lemon reporting that women my age are past their prime. It must be true because he said he googled it.
Happy birthday to me!
At first, his co-hosts thought he was talking about our looks or our childbearing years—which was bad enough. However, he was referring to 2024 presidential candidate Nikki Hayley who was calling for age-based competency tests for politicians over 75. He commented on how she shouldn’t talk since she is not in her 20s, 30s, or 40s. According to him, she is “past her prime.”
That’s very interesting. You see, I would argue that at 52, I am in my prime, operating with a full deck of cards, and you, Mr. Lemon, are quite the joker.
As a communications professional, I’ve worked in the editorial, marketing, and production departments of several publishing companies. I have also been fortunate to work for three different non-profit organizations and helped raise millions of dollars for various worthy causes. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to travel, learn new skills, develop expertise in various areas, mentor others, and, above all, make a difference.
On the flip side, I learned a lot about myself after surviving a toxic work environment where bullying and gaslighting were the leadership styles embraced by my superiors. While I drank the Kool-Aid for the cause (or the lemonade, in this case), my creativity and confidence in my abilities were shattered. At the lowest point, I sat across the conference table from my boss, who informed me that they don’t fire people, but he said he “knew how to make people want to leave.”
From then on, I lived in fear of how his mandate would play out for my co-workers and me. In my case, I was ousted from my team without cause, moved to a different department, and replaced by a younger, less experienced male colleague. Thankfully, a few weeks into my new role, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us all to work from home. It was a difficult time for me and for the world, but it turned out the virus became the cure I needed to move on.
Speaking of which, I now feel valued and respected as a professional. In my current position, I can be thoughtful, strategic, and creative. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I don’t. I learn from my mistakes and take responsibility for my actions without fear of major consequences. I know what I need to be successful and am not afraid to ask for it. More support? Bigger budget? Deadline extensions? I have no problem putting the request out there for consideration. What’s the worst that can happen? If I don’t ask, the answer is always no. If it doesn’t work out, I don’t cry about it. I keep moving forward and do the best I can.
I don’t think I would be where I am today without an incredible support system at home. Without this entourage of people cheering me on and providing me with sound advice, I wouldn’t be my authentic self. My husband, children, parents, sister, and extended families have always been behind me, see my potential, and challenge me to keep going for all I aspire to become.
In addition to my incredible family, I have a spectacular group of men and women in my life to whom I can turn to for just about anything. Parenting advice, career coaching, travel tips, book recommendations, or just a glass of wine and a kind word. They are all a few blocks or a text, a FaceTime call, or a Zoom chat away. This wasn’t always the case for me. I’ve had my share of troubled relationships in high school and college, where I felt used or ignored by people I thought were my closest companions. But now, as we all navigate this crazy time in our lives sandwiched between aging parents and young adult children while still pursuing our dreams, I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to travel with down this road.
I’m not saying I am without faults or challenges. Patience has never been a virtue of mine. Anxiety is a beast I may never tame. I wish I were better organized so I could spend more time with my creative side and less time looking for my reading glasses. I often do my best work at the last minute, which makes my colleagues understandably nervous.
I’ve spent too much time fighting imposter syndrome rather than finishing my first book. But that will change soon. Being an empty nester means I have more time doing what I love most—writing, reading, exploring indie bookstores, attending author events and writing workshops, and being a good literary citizen.
At this point in my life, I know exactly who I am. It took me a while to get here, but I’ve earned every wrinkle and grey hair along the way. I have collected past experiences and channeled them into the wisdom I wished for when I was younger.
So, you see, Mr. Lemon. I am in my prime. My aces are lined up, and my heart is in the right place. I still shine like a diamond and have had good fortune in spades. I can still play a good hand, and I am not ready to fold. In fact, I am all in.