By Suzette A. Cohen, M.A.
There are many times in our lives marked to acknowledge an important step forward in our growth and development. Once a baby walks, they are officially known as a toddler, you become a teenager after the age of twelve and legally an adult at age eighteen. Fortunately, I transitioned well through these stages, but was not sure when I would officially become “middle-aged”. AARP reminded me I was no longer a young adult as my 50th birthday approached and offered me membership in their organization. Really, who actually retires at aged 50?
Nonetheless, I assume I am officially middle aged, and I think I quite like it. Many my age are rushing to have their breasts augmented, faces lifted or tummies tucked. I personally am grateful that all my organs and limbs still work and that my brain still fires at great speed. Let me tell you why I am happy where I am.
First of all, relationships. At this point in my life, I am extremely appreciative for all the wonderful people who I call family and friends (many are called both!). This has been a result of my willingness to let go of old resentments, and sincere efforts to evolve into a more loving and forgiving person myself-not always so easy! My husband, who I met in my early twenties, is still the one for me. I am grateful to not be a teenager without the experience to determine when a guy is on a sexual as opposed to emotional quest. No more games, no more drama, just a gentle man I have chosen to spend my life with-and he with me!!! This is not to say the road to marriage is perfect-I think luck and commitment have much to do with it.
Let’s talk about kids. I absolutely LOVE being a mother. I had three sons within five years and relish every (alright almost every) second I spent raising them. They are funny, bright, curious, and quite amazing people. I can say this now that their teen years are behind me and no longer sixteen year old drivers. Now that they have all passed their 21st birthdays, I sleep better at night. I am realistic enough to know that when you send your children off to college, and in my case they went as undergraduates to one of the top party schools known (GO DAWGS), there are likely to be opportunities for underage drinking and activities of which a mother (especially a Jewish one) would not approve. I told them that if they ever called me from jail, that I would not bail them out if they did something stupid. I also told them that if they lost their HOPE scholarships, they were moving home, WITH A CURFEW, and attending a local community college. Fortunately, none of these events ever occurred. I am so relieved to have raised fine young men who are contributing members of society.
The past follows us to the present. Thankfully, I have a great connection with my mom today although I thought she was evil during my teen years, as did most of my girlfriends. Becoming a mom helped me realize the incredible sacrifice parents make, though the rewards are mostly unbelievable, and often take 20 years to see! My siblings are important to me and have taught me lessons I needed to learn to be a better person in this world. My father died young, but I am thankful for the thirty years I had with him. My parents survived as children of the Holocaust which profoundly impacted who I am today.
Let’s discuss teachers, and we have all had many. Fortunately, most of mine were good, some were bad, and a handful were exceptional. (And not all of them were adults-many were wise children.) One of the best teachers I ever had was Anna Lee Culp, my 3rd grade gifted education teacher. She influenced me socially, academically, spiritually and emotionally. It was in her third grade class that I learned of the death of MLK, the plight of abused animals, peace rallies, cultural activities and beyond. She was passionate in her belief of social responsibility which still influences me today. Proudly, she is also my twice a week pen pal who I visited just last year! At 84, she remains a feisty and committed teacher!
How can we get to middle age as women without the topic of hormones? There is just one word I will utter-BIOIDENTICALS! After staring at the ceiling for six months at night, sweating in the cold and watching my husband snore the night away, I decided to take action. Go to a doctor who listens and cares and DOES NOT SAY “there is nothing I can do for you”. Enough said!
And finally, careers. I have been blessed to work for a company that values families. I started at AAPA when my youngest was four and that was over seventeen years ago. I have the best co-workers possible. We are collaborative, caring and work together for the best interest of our patients. We have had some people pass through the practice who did not work out-it has not been perfect. And in some of the interfaith work I have done on the side, I met some dreadful people of my own faith, though that number was small. Finding a career that is the right fit with the right people is priceless-a long way from my first job as a cashier in a grocery store!
So here I am today. Being middle aged has allowed me to gather wisdom, humility, appreciation, and somewhat of a sense of humor. I may not be the fit cheerleader I was in high school, but that person no longer is me. I am happier, more emotionally mature, and spiritually grateful for the lessons I have learned along the way. And besides, true beauty and strength is what is within us anyway.