One of the things I like best about midlife is the freedom I allow myself to choose whether I care, comply with, work around or completely disregard the opinions others may try to place upon me. I feel liberated from what others think as age-appropriate. It’s not that I set out to deliberately shock or make others uncomfortable by my actions (far from it), it’s just that I simply care less and less about others opinions in pretty much every area, apart from my professional life. And even there, I am increasingly discerning and even downright picky about with whom I wish to engage and what I choose to work upon. Both the ‘life is short’ and ‘choose joy!‘ clichés may as well be tattooed on my forehead.
And so, you can imagine my fascination when in a cafe recently, I shamelessly eavesdropped on a snippet of conversation that went something like this:
“What do you think about that car – the yellow Beetle out there?”
“Hmmn, not sure I’d want to own something that bright. You can’t exactly miss the yellow, can you?”
“Yes, it is kind of showy. Sort of ‘look at me, look at me'” (said in that lovely quintessentially Australian-accented Kath and Kim way).
Goodness! How opinionated and judgmental I thought, and so unexpected from the two women, mid 20’s I’m guessing, who then went on to speculate about the owner of the car.
“Bound to be a yummy mummy with older children because there aren’t any car seats in it”
“Or maybe an older man, trying to look fun enough to attract someone like us!” Giggles ensued.
“Nah, a man wouldn’t buy a yellow car, surely? It’s too obvious”
“Might be just for having fun in though. You know, driving to the beach, reliving his youth, pretending to be a cool surfer dude”
“That’s sooo sad! Anyway, cars aren’t meant to be fun. They’re just for getting you from point A to B. And that one’s not even practical. It’s only a two-door!”
“Well, maybe the owner is a middle-aged woman who wants to have fun while driving from point A to B. Or maybe the colour or the type of car means something to her?”
“But cars don’t mean anything – they’re just a tool. I mean honestly, can you imagine either of our Mums driving that? Cont you think that middle-aged women are too old and boring and sensible to waste their money on a yellow car, just to have fun?”
As I listened, I wondered how, and at what stage of our development, we become so opinionated, so sure and confident that our view is correct and should therefore be expressed. (I’ve noticed the trait in lots of younger people and, for the most part, I am genuinely curious to understand their way of seeing and being in the world).
And then I pondered whether it’s the passage of time that magically, a couple of decades later, makes me feel much less need to express my previous staunchly held opinions, despite an increased certainty borne of years of wisdom and experiences gained from the schools of hard knocks and soft landings. Has time, tolerance or a broader perspective softened both opinion and the urge?
As the women’s conversation moved to fashion, friends, children’s achievements, gym workouts and house renovations, I reminded myself that when we know better, we do better. And at midlife, ‘my better’ means being thankful for the freedom to be and do more of what matters to my Beloveds and me, with much less concern for the opinions of others.
When I stood to leave, one of the women smiled at me and commented, “I love your scarf. It’s nice to see something so bright and colourful on this gloomy day”
“Not too showy?” I asked, “not screaming ‘look at me’?”
“Oh no” she replied, “It suits you perfectly”
“Thanks for that” said I, and pointed towards my yellow Beetle “So does my car“
As I drove away, two small children, jumping up and down, pointed at my car and waved. I smiled and waved right back, glad I chose my car with my heart, not my “old, boring and sensible” head.
What do you see as a benefit of midlife?