I was what you would call a “late bloomer.” I didn’t have my first boyfriend until age 17 and prior to that I spent many a Friday night crying over crushes, wishing I were anyone other than who I was. This was the mid-80s which was actually a fun time to be a teenager. The music, the movies, the clothes, the hair…all so iconic now. I envied girls who had sky-high hair, were thinner, were prettier. I wanted to be noticed and fly under the radar at the same time. I spent a lot of time looking in the mirror and not liking the reflection staring back. Sure, I had friends. I had fun. But I always wondered what it would be like to be noticed, to walk into a room and be aware that heads were turning. Alas, that wasn’t my reality. Thankfully the things that mattered to me then faded as I got older and came into my own—or so I thought.
Age 33 has been one of my favorite ages to date. I’m not one of those women who gets upset with each passing milestone birthday. As long as I feel good, I’m happy and I celebrate myself. But there was something about that age that was magical. I had done a lot of healing from my toxic marriage and was financially stable. More than that, I was emotionally strong. I felt good about myself. Because of this I exuded a vibration that was attractive to others. Of course, at the time I thought it was more about my external appearance. Now I know it had everything to do with how I felt about myself.
It was around this time that Deb and I used to meet for lunch on a fairly regular basis. We had a few favorite spots to meet. Sometimes it was the pizzeria near her apartment. We ordered Greek salads every time. Then there was the Chinese restaurant which offered a lunch buffet. Another popular choice was a family restaurant that offered a pasta dish called Angel Hair Ashely. It was my favorite thing on the menu. During these lunches Deb and I laughed, vented to one another, and solidified our budding friendships.
During this time, I started dating again. I was promoted at work and given a substantial raise. I could buy what I wanted. I could go where I wanted. Life was great and I felt invincible. That feeling carried on for several years. I never imagined that it would go away. I had waited so long to “arrive,” that it never occurred to me that things would change. But time marches on…
Somewhere around my early 40s I noticed that I had become seemingly invisible… again. It happened slowly. It was a subtle shift. But it was unmistakable. It wasn’t upsetting per se, but I had a wistful feeling as if my “glory days” were over. I was the mom of a teenager. I was passing into a new stage of life and I didn’t like it. Suddenly I had trouble sleeping. I couldn’t lose weight easily. I felt irritated and tired all the time. Now when I looked in the mirror, I saw a middle-aged woman whose youth was stolen by years of dysfunction and craziness. It all felt unfair. Where had all the magical power gone? Little did I know how much internal work I needed to do.
Now in my 50s, the magical power is back. In truth, it had never left. I now equate my power with what’s going on in the inside. Yes, sometimes I notice new wrinkles or new sun spots on my hands. But it doesn’t matter. None of those things are who I am. None of those things affect the real me. I used to think that was all a bunch of New Age BS. But it’s not. Once you allow yourself to take off the mask and be who you really are, life becomes richer, better. No amount of designer hand bags or visits to expensive salons can even come close to the feeling you get when you truly love yourself.
Still, sometimes I get nostalgic. A few years ago, Deb told me that one day when I met her for lunch, as I entered the restaurant and made my way to our table, she saw heads turn as I walked to the table. I was completely unaware, but hearing the story made me smile. I thought of my 17-year-old self, aching to be noticed. I silently wished I could go back in time and tell her it would all work out. I’d tell her not to cry, blast her Purple Rain album, tease her bangs to the highest heights, and pop her collar with the confidence of her 33-year old self.