Aging ain’t for the faint-hearted. That’s for sure. I remember back to the summer I was 18, between high school and college. I spent it in Israel, picking peaches and pears on a kibbutz near Beersheva. The group of us worked from 6am to noon and then spent the afternoon in a Hebrew lesson and then free time. It was work, but it was not difficult. I travelled around the country, sometimes with just another young woman and once by myself (that was really a dumb decision) and felt invincible. In reality, my naivety was in place and I was lucky I survived that experience.
Over the years, with all the pathways I have walked, I have felt challenged by different issues. In my 20s I was positioned to benefit from the Women’s Lib movement pushing for equal positions and equal pay. (Funny how some issues still exist. Not funny at all, really.)
In my 30s I was raising my children and became aware of how much, even in a school system with a high reputation, I needed to supplement their education. We explored the area, bringing history, science, and current events to life. We visited the public library a lot, grabbing books that fed any current interest of theirs. I wanted them to realize that learning was more than memorizing dates and facts. That true learning provides the key to figuring things out.
In my 40s I walked a pathway we all hope never to have to…..the slow death of my husband. While raising a late in life baby, being the chief cheerleader for the walk with cancer, and working full time to make sure we had health care benefits, my immune system took a big hit coping with the long term stress. I gained weight. I contracted meningitis. My own mortality became apparent and as I began to discover aches and pains that I was sure was cancer, I was assured by my doctor not to worry. There were other issues that needed attention.
In my 50s I took a giant leap of faith and changed my life. I remarried and I moved. I started another new job, learning new skills and new vocabularies. It was then I had an awareness that my capability for memorization had reduced dramatically since my very first job out of college. I learned to use compensatory skills, writing things down. I also was ready to stand up for myself and when I was not recognized to be of value by my boss (no decent raise after helping him build a business to a level of success where a decent raise could be budgeted) I started to work in my own business at home. Not only was I able to match my prior income, but it gave me time to explore new areas of interest.
Now, in my 60s, I have moved once again. Upon retirement and after careful planning, my husband and I relocated across country and we feel very pleased with our choice of location. I wanted to work and so, the new job search began. Because of my varied work experience (I have worked in the court system, as a planner, in real estate in sales and as an appraiser, as an administrative assistant and as a business manager. I have experienced various work environments such as state government, consulting, medical offices, higher education, the financial world, marketing and the local food system. I have been a small cog in a large organization and I have run my own business with 12 employees.) I thought it would not be difficult to find SOMETHING that would provide a bit of a boost to the household income. But, after applying to 50 positions and only gaining 4 interviews, I learned that two factors were the problem. I had TOO much experience and I was too old.
Ageism is one more barrier. While it is no longer legal to ask birthdates on job applications, they can ask about educational experience and with that, they gain the year of graduation. Well, since most people graduate high school at 18, there you go. The math is not difficult. So, instead of feeling miserable and unloved, I did the next best thing. I started another business.
And so, another new experience at age 61. New vocabulary, new skills. New aches and pains. And best of all, new love for what I am doing. Can-Do Real Food is the culmination of 7 decades of living. Of learning. Of exploring.