Yesterday was a birthday milestone! I passed the 45 mark. I’m usually the person that celebrates my birthday starting on Halloween and going all the way through Thanksgiving. I call it ‘The Month of Me’. But this year, leading up to it, I wasn’t motivated to do much. We didn’t plan a big party, which usually entails costumes, live music and lots of cocktails. Instead, we planned a small dinner with just a couple of friends. I couldn’t really put my finger on why I was so disenchanted by this years birthday up until today… The Day After.
Leading into the day of, I was feeling like, “ugh, Fucking 46”. I don’t feel 46, I don’t think I look 46 and certainly don’t act 46, unless of course I’m reprimanding my kids and realize that I sound like my mother… then I feel more like 56.
Having spent the days leading up to my birthday up at a University, speaking with students, literally more than half my age, I started to think differently about the impending 4-6.
These young adults are in the most fun but stressful and conflicted times in their lives. They feel they need to make a decision about what they want to do... forever. They are trying to pick careers that they think they either should choose or that someone has told them to choose. They are looking for help, guidance, advice, direction and some are even looking for purpose.
I wouldn’t want to be back in their shoes to save my life. However, being surrounded by the students in the business school, many of which are studying Entrepreneurship, I realized where I do want to be… and it was exactly where I was… mentoring, sharing my advice, guiding them, talking about my personal entrepreneurial journey and fostering the students. I was in my happy place.
During my afternoon Keynote, I encouraged the students to not attempt to figure out WHAT they want to do with their lives, but rather to figure out WHO they want to be and to let that guide them in their journeys. We talked about ways to find their passion, to start nurturing it and see if it’s something they can build into a life and career they love.
There was one moment, in particular, that occurred on this trip that brought me so much clarity about who I am and what I do. An MBA student from India had set up a 1on1 session with me after one of the group talks that I did. She was conflicted. She opened up and told me that she felt she had spent 6 years wasting her life on one direction that didn't work out. I said, ‘For starters, it takes dedication and resilience to spend 6 years working hard and studying non-stop for a position you have a 1 in a 1,000 chance of getting. I then asked her to give me three positive things she can take away from the experience in order to shift her mindset from failure to learning experience. Her whole demeanor changed after that.
She then shared with me that she too had recently lost her father, her biggest mentor, supporter and #1 fan. She said 'what's it all for if he is not around to see it'. We both began to get chocked up and I swallowed back the lump in my throat to explain to her that our fathers are always with us, watching over us and giving us signs that point us in the right direction. Believing this is what gives me the strength to continue to do what I do.
When we finished wiping away the tears, we stood and hugged each other. She explained how she has never broken down like that in front of anyone, let alone a stranger, because she believes it is a sign of weakness. My response to her was, "your tears are not weakness they are a sign of how powerful and strong your love is for your father and always will be.”
This encounter created a shift in me. It made me realize how much my perspective has changed since turning 40. At her age, I had a totally different vision for my life. My perspective, surroundings and life situation was different. All that changed after 20 years of life, jobs, marriages, kids, divorce, new beginnings, and a tremendous amount falling down and getting back up again. Life is a series of learning experiences that shapes us into who we are. I realized that without all of these years of life I couldn’t do what I do, nor what I believe I did for that one woman.
So today, as a now 46 year old, I’ve changed the narrative. I believe that 46 deserves to be embraced and given a big huge welcome hug. So far, my 40’s have been amazing and looking forward to continuing on in that same direction. So instead of my narrative of ‘Ugh, Fucking 46’, it’s now ‘YAY, Fabulous 46.’