“Of a certain age”
There’s no better time than now to question what seems to be certain.
Not only because fires and storms threaten our homes. And the economy is on the brink. But because suddenly, we are people “of a certain age.”
That’s a pretty harsh euphemism, tyically used to marginalize old people. But I don’t mind.
Certainty is relative. So we need not be afraid.
In the 1800s, Lord Byron and Charles Dickens used “of a certain age” to imply spinsterhood.
In 1979, the book Women of a Certain Age: The Midlife Search for Self—defined midlife as 35 to 54.
And in 1995, the wordsmith William Safire explained all this in his New York Times column. At the time, he not only was of a certain age—but also “of certain weight.” And yet, he enjoyed 15 more good writing years, before dying of pancreatic cancer at 79.
A decade later the online version of the Times was drawing 555 million page views per month. And the digital native pipsqueaks were certain that people like you and I were irrelevant.
Boy, were they wrong!
In his book Wisdom at Work, the Making of a Modern Elder, Chip Conley celebrates the value of the humility, emotional intelligence, and wisdom that come with age. He aims to liberate the term elder from the stigma of elderly.
And he lays out a plan for “growing whole, not old.”
Conley, now 58, saw early success as a boutique hotelier. Today he’s an advisor to the young founders of Airbnb, who are half his age. And he’s the mastermind behind the Modern Elder Academy in Baja California Sur, Mexico.
The minute I learned about Conley’s “midlife wisdom school” I was certain it was for me! I was on the road during my Tour de 60. I pulled over my car and applied.
Thanks to financial aid, I’ll be spending a week there in December, with a dozen or so other people—all of a certain age—who aim to develop the skills and mindset to dream big about the future.
Two years into my new life as a writer and communications consultant, there are days when I still feel scared or bored or invisible. Most of my transitioning friends say the same.
And yet, I’m pretty certain that the best years of our lives are “over the hill” that lies ahead.
Because if we are resourceful, these are the years we can redefine (or reinvent) our careers or homes or lifestyles for the greatest freedom and flexibility.
If we are generous, these are the years our wisdom will be graciously received.
And if we are brave—even if we’ve been alone, or lonely, or unclear how to open our hearts—these are the years we will find big love.