I’ve lost three members of my family this year. First my aunt in April, then my uncle in July, and finally my father in September. One died of COVID. Two died from heart disease. Last night I watched an abomination, that could loosely be called a presidential debate, display the fragility of our “democracy.” Today I sat in a hearing for my second class-action racial discrimination lawsuit, reliving a trauma I’d rather forget. I know I’m not the only one experiencing a difficult year. There are times in life when the earth seems to shift. I felt it in 1993 when my sister died of sickle-cell anemia. I felt it in 2006 when I shut the doors to the fitness center that I owned back in Brooklyn. I felt it in 2011 when I lost my mother to cancer. I feel it now losing my dad. If you live long enough, life will give you the business. No matter how perfect life may feel at times, we will all experience sickness, aging, death, and loss.
I was interviewed this week for my friend’s podcast. In it, I referred to myself as “old.” I laughed and corrected myself by saying I’m “older.” The two ladies in conversation with me admonished me, “Don’t say that! You’re not old!” I countered, “Who made old a bad word?” I’m proud and grateful to be fifty-two. I remember things, like the NYC blackout of 1977, the Challenger explosion in 1986, the AIDS epidemic, life without technology, the Rodney King riots in 1991, and the way our country rallied together after 9/11. Every time I state my age I gasp a little inside. I know I’m breaking a societal rule. Growing up I often heard, “A lady doesn’t tell her age.” I never wanted to be a lady. Ladies sounded oppressed to me, always crossing legs, watching their language, and keeping quiet. I’m a woman standing in my truth.
When I turned fifty I felt pressure to start lying about my age. I could easily tell folks I’m forty-two. Y’all wouldn’t know the difference. When we lie about our age we shrink. When we lie about our age we succumb to society’s desire to control us. We have to forget who we are. We have to make our stories smaller. We have to giggle and pretend not to remember things, like entire decades. Why?
Our nation is obsessed with youth, particularly for women. Fashion models are often notably young when they begin their careers. Often as young as fourteen. (Does anyone remember Brooke Shields?) Many women believe they have more romantic opportunities when they lie about their age. Some feel they won’t be discriminated against in the workplace. Some think they will be stereotyped if they tell their age. As women, we have the choice to “pass” for younger or stand in the truth of our lived experiences. It’s similar to the way some Black people “pass” for white or stand in the truth of their racial identity. I’m not here to judge anyone. Everyone’s circumstances are different. We do what we must to survive. Just don’t miss your opportunity to thrive.
There is joy in not having to remember what year I was supposed to have been born. There is freedom in being able to be myself without apology. Every time I say my age I’m grateful. I’m an author, a marathoner, a trail runner, a yogi, a business owner, a life coach, a reiki practitioner, a meditation instructor, a mom, and a world traveler. More than anything I’m a survivor. Today I was told I’m a warrior. I like that.
We are all warriors in this world. Every insult we survive. Every injury we heal. Every trauma we overcome. They deepen our warrior spirit.
I’ve known plenty of love and loss in my life. If we’re lucky we’ll know plenty of love. If we’re human and we live long enough, we’ll know plenty of loss.
What will you do with the gift of life that you’re holding in your hand today?
I hope you stand in your truth, ignite your warrior spirit and reach for your dreams.
I wish you Freedom, Alignment and Effortless Abundance!
P.S. The image is a sculpture I bought thirty years ago when I visited the Bahamas. I removed the little sword, replaced it with a pen, and named him “Warrior with a Pen.” It has always been my intention to use my words to educate and uplift. If you haven’t already gotten your hands on a copy of my self-help memoir, Thinking Outside the Chrysalis: A Black Woman’s Guide to Spreading Her Wings, find out more at trishahjelroberts.com/books.