I’m not normally very open about my age. I don’t know why, I guess it is just a cultural norm that women aren’t supposed to talk about it. I remember when I first moved to Austin, my friends used to try to make people guess how old I was and I’d get so embarrassed. Not sure if people really didn’t know or if they were just flattering me – when I told them, they always seemed surprised. But alas, today on my birthday, I want to come clean and tell the world that THIS IS WHAT 44 LOOKS LIKE.
I have always been known as a straight shooter, and I’ve been accused of telling it like it is more times than I can count. It’s no surprise that the 44 year-old me is even more authentic; it’s the real me, no sugar coating – what you see is what you get.
So, why am I telling you all this? Well, there are a few reasons, the first is because I want you to know that it’s NEVER too late to change your path and follow your passion! When I was 42, I decided to leave my long term career to travel the world. I was a Director of Human Resources for companies like W Hotels and Coca-Cola; I left the safety of my executive salary and traded it in for risk of starting over because I knew there had to be some other way. Here’s the thing, I hear a lot of people say that they are too old to make this kind of change, but those who have a few more years under their belt are more resourceful, we are wise. We have had careers, relationships, kids – we have weathered a storm or two.
When I made my big announcement, I expected more people to tell me I was crazy, but they didn’t. Those who knew me, knew that I was following my dreams and were pretty supportive about it. People were genuinely excited for me, many told me stories of their past travels or their plans to do the same after their kids were done with college; I loved seeing the excitement on their faces! A few were a bit hateful behind my back, and of course that bothered me, but I shook it off because I knew that it came from a place of envy – wishing that they could do the same.
This leads me to the second reason: this WILL happen when you follow your dreams, especially if your goals don’t fit into the traditional mold. People who were once your “friends” may no longer be a part of your life. They will talk about you, or simply stop talking to you. Just remember this old saying – “what other people think of you is really none of your business.” Place your focus on being your best YOU, live by your own standards, and feel good about that. You will definitely learn who your supporters are and that will feel good too.
And the last reason, since we are being so authentic – it is not as easy as you may think. I’d be lying if I said I had everything all figured out. Naturally I miss things about my old life: my family and friends – especially on holidays and days like my birthday; my dog; my regular monthly salary coming in no matter what. But you know what I surprisingly DON’T miss? I don’t miss my house, or my STUFF. I don’t miss the weight of all those material things I used to “carry” around with me. I don’t miss sitting at a desk for 10 hours a day, or worrying what might happen at my job while I was away. I enjoy this new and simple life as much, if not more, than I thought I would!
So guess what? I was right when I truly listened to my internal voice. At the end of the day, I am truly honored to have the opportunity to travel full time and discover things about myself that I never knew. I had no idea that I would enjoy having to fit everything into a bag when I move to the next destination so I can control the clutter of too many material things. I knew I loved learning, especially from other people (I am a social learner in style), but I had no idea how much I would enjoy authentically learning about the people, history and cultures of the places I visit. I love to tackle and conquer my fears by trying things I once would shy away from. I like being in control of my days (except travel days – you will have to learn to relinquish all control on these days) and I like keeping myself on a budget so I don’t have those regrets of excess that I had in the past.
My new lifestyle is pushing me to make changes and find solutions -they say that necessity IS the mother of invention after all. I am strong, wise, independent, creative, flexible and solution-oriented. Now more than ever before I have confidence in my abilities and feel empowered beyond what I thought was possible before.
So this is what 44 looks like? Yep, and it looks pretty beautiful from my viewpoint. So this year, I am not going to shy away when someone asks how old I am. I will proudly profess that I am 44. Happy birthday to me.