Betty White has become known for her line, "Aging isn't for sissies." She said that in one of her books even though aging has provided her with a whole new branding. She was referring to aging in general.
When it comes down to us mature professionals who intend to continue to keep working it's an understatement that such a goal isn't for sissies. Since I turned 58, when my industry blew up, I have been hitting bottoms as well as magnificent highs in operating my own business. In May I will be 69. I have no intention of ever retiring.
But I would have thrown in the towel had I not been living in a "village" where emotional support, wise motherly advice and one of those eye-rolls now and then have kept me focused on my goal. Yes, a village is not only needed to guide children, as Hillary Clinton noted. A village is mandated for the challenge of overcoming those with garlic in their soul who would like us over-50 to become invisible. And free up work slots for them.
I got lucky. The villagers came to me. The first to arrive was former college classmate and newspaper editor at Seton Hill Lee Harrison. Her photo is to the left. I was at one of several bottoms. She was both the good mother and the annoyed eye-roller about stupid moves I was making.
Then, Lee brought in her posse. Mostly they have been other college buddies like Kathleen Huebner, Irene Nunn, Charlotte Toal and Karen Codaro. Finally, a best friend from the good old days Anne Desmond also approached.
Why the villager factor is so powerful is because they are my age (Lee being the exception who is one year younger). They know exactly what buttons to press to encourage me in a fresh direction. Likewise they spot immediately my bad habit of chasing assignments I see as cool and which, as my magical thinking goes, will make me seem youthful. Either I don't get the assignments. Or I do and screw up. After all, I am a 68 year old writer. Not one of the cool kids on Gawker.
Lately, villagers and I have been knocking around the idea of my relocating to Arizona (where Kathleen pitched her tent several years ago). They sense and I sense it's time to try out the southern market for my services. And leave the New York Metro glamour market to the young. Because I am on the East Coast, the south hasn't taken me seriously. Also, the cost of living is lower. I could afford to choose my assignments.
How can you establish your village? Break open to possibility. If you are, they will come. We aging are eager to help each other - and generous in doing that. We know no one is going to go to bat for us.
One tactic is to form a Working Anonymous 12-step program in the village. The first step is, "I am powerless over aging and the bias of the work world has made my professional life unmanageable." To conduct the meetings order "The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" of AA on Amazon.com.
The village has a new resident, a four-footer. The posse talked me into adopting him after my 18-year-old feline companion died. I named him Lee K., after Lee and Kathleen. Because I have Lee K. I can consider relocating for a shot at new kinds of business opportunities for my executive and marketing communications boutique. I won't be doing it alone. Lee K. et al. will be there.