Redefining my identity in my 40s
I was recently attending the first meeting for a local organization where I started volunteering. When the host asked us to go around the table and introduce ourselves, my mind went straight to that same rehearsed speech I’ve used many times before. But when he added the corollary to his invitation to talk, I almost froze. He said: please do not introduce yourselves by your career or job title, nor mention who you are married to or who your kids are. And so the inevitable question left me thinking: who am I then?
As a woman approaching her 50th birthday, I realize more often than not that the scaffolding that helped support my identity and perception of myself has slowly but steadily drifted away. Sometimes by choice, sometimes not. My kids drive themselves to school and there is no high-school moms chat group. The career that defined me for most of my professional life came to a stop for a family decision to move to a new city, and my reputation didn’t fit into our U-Haul. I am still the wife of the same wonderful man that is in the pictures of my fondest memories, but even our relationship has evolved with time.
Those good honest conversations I have with my dearest friends remind me that I’m not the only one asking herself that same question:
How do we re-define ourselves at this age when we were supposed to know who we are?
To each one of us, the answer has come at a different time and for different circumstances, and a few of my friends are still wondering. Some of us have started volunteering, joining organizations that share our passions and values. Others have taken on yoga or other more active forms of exercise and spending lots of time cooking healthier meals or exploring the farmers market. I even attempted pursuing an online degree, only to feel discouraged after scoring a 97% on the qualification test (experience does pay off, and I want to learn something I really didn’t know before).
I probably mumbled something short and non-descriptive when I introduced myself at that meeting, but since that moment I have taken plenty of personal time to figure it out. In my late 40s, I can define myself by what I value in me, what I am and what I want to continue to be looking forward into the future (even if I have to put on my glasses to see it clearly).
So… Hello, my name is Jackie, and I am a healthy, accepting and authentic mature woman. Who are you?