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a birthday cake
by
Diane Hatz
,
November 3, 2022

A Birthday Note to Myself

Getting older is getting better

I couldn’t see the beauty in small things when I was in my 20s and 30s.

Today’s my birthday. As you read this, I’m luxuriating at 10,000 Waves, a swanky spa in Santa Fe, where I live. I’m 61 years old. I can’t fathom or get my head around that number. My body might not move like it used to, but I feel like a 30-something with earned wisdom.

I hesitate to share my age because you, the reader, have already judged me - whether you mean to or not.

In the past couple of years, I’ve completely changed my life. After thirty years in New York City, I moved cross country. I moved to a city where I didn’t know anyone - and did so in the height of lockdown. I also shut down my nonprofit, meaning I ended a long career.

I’d lost my passion for nonprofit food advocacy, which had been my career. A new generation of younger people had taken over, and frankly, I no longer felt I had a place. I also believed the nonprofit sector was becoming too corporate-minded and, well, boring. I also didn’t want the drama that came with the egos, the backstabbing, and the fundraising. I’d lost my passion. That’s what led to a career shift.

Things inevitably change as we get older, but I wasn’t prepared for the ageism I often face now. I was told - and found out for myself! - that by age 55, most women disappear. Employers don’t want to hire you; funders don’t want to fund you; investors turn the other way. And some younger people look right through you.

In my first draft of this piece, I started going down a woe-is-me rabbit hole about ageism, but why waste my energy? Yes, there should be no ageism. Yes, elders should be respected for their wisdom and knowledge. Yes, it shouldn’t matter how old you are or how many wrinkles you have. But it does to the vast majority of people in this country.

I could easily feel sorry for myself, and sometimes I do, but I’ve got too much life left in me to worry about what others think.

I’m 61, and I’m just getting started.

So rather than try to fight or change society’s perception, I’ve decided to change my own. I feel sad for younger people who can’t see the vitality, youthfulness, wisdom, and fun in so many over 50. My favorite rock stars are in their 70s now and still kick butt. Who would believe Bruce Springsteen is 70-something?

I’m 61, and I’ve never been more alive. I’m seeing The Who in Denver next week; I’m back in Denver in March to see Springsteen. And I have road trips galore that I need to plan. My first book was just re-published, and I’m 100% behind marketing and promoting it this time. I’ve started both a second and third book. I have this Substack newsletter that’s just getting off the ground. I’ve started a new career as an independent author and entrepreneur!

I’m profoundly grateful for my health. For my apartment. For my first car ever! For my first-ever washer and dryer! As I write, I get to look out over two mountain ranges and watch white puffy clouds grow and float by. I watch birds come to my window to say hello. A pair of doves have been visiting me for over a year.

White Thunder on a road trip. My first car! (photo Diane Hatz)

I couldn’t see the beauty in small things when I was in my 20s and 30s. I was too busy trying to reach some superficial, material goal that doesn’t exist. I’ve seen more stunning, take-your-breath-away sunsets in the past year than in my entire life. I just saw a rainbow so brilliant that it brought joyful tears to my eyes.

Thinking about it, I couldn’t see the important things in life until I started getting pushed out of the materialistic, ladder-climbing delusion I’d been living in. As the material, outer world became harder to grab onto, the immaterial, spiritual side of me began to blossom. And with that has come a richness, a deepening, an expansion of my soul that I didn’t think possible.

So bring it on 61. I’ve got so much life left to live.

And knowing that the years are becoming more limited motivates me to get out and enjoy the world more. All while deepening what’s growing inside.

How beautiful is life?

Happy Day to you all!

...

This piece was originally published on Next Draft.

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