More than a Number

Welcome to MORE THAN A NUMBER, a blog – a conversation, really – about aging here in the United States. We’re barely into the year 2019, supposedly the most enlightened time in this country’s history. And yet, something’s off.

I got the idea for this blog as the result of recent 6 or so months I’ve lived. Experienced, really. I suppose it would be a good idea for me to tell you a little bit about myself before we go any further.

First, the fun stuff. I’m Carole, a 58-year old woman who lives in the southeastern United States. I’ve been married to a wonderful man for 20 years; we have two wonderful children who are now young adults, and three dogs who have taken their places now that they’ve left home. We have a granddaughter on the way this May, and I’m so excited I can’t stand it. 

For about eighteen years, I’ve been a newspaper journalist and an author. Before that, I was what one might call a corporate “heavy hitter,” a Director of Marketing for a consulting firm, and I was good at it. I’ve raised two children, published 5 books, I teach writers’ workshops, I mentor aspiring writers, and I lead classes and groups at our church. 

I share all of this to open a conversation about my situation at age 58 (and maybe yours, too). In truth, I’m confused. In more truth, I’m a little frightened. Full truth – I’m also feeling other things: anger maybe? Irrelevance, definitely.  Dare I say it? I’m feeling old for the first time in my life, and I’m not old. Fifty-eight is the new, what, 38? 28?  

Now 58 is not old, I know that. But the world is starting to whisper things in my ear, and I don’t like what I’m hearing. I’ll give you a couple of examples and then, to be honest, I want to hear from you. I believe that only those of us in this particular phase of life can understand and encourage one another. 

In December, just before Christmas, my husband lost his job, at age 55. No warning, no severance package, no real reason given to him. He’s been dedicated to his work since before I met him; it’s just who he is. Still, there we were. Christmas was just around the corner, bills still insisted on being paid. It was in that situation that I decided I needed, even wanted, to go back to the traditional workplace. There’s a measure of safety in that, no matter how long it’s been since I hung out there. 

That was two months ago, and I continue to submit applications for jobs in my area. In metropolitan Atlanta, the job commute is just as important as the job itself, unless you enjoy spending 3-4 hours in the car every day. Therefore, I’m applying to part-time jobs near where I live: a bustling county of one million people. Out of the hundreds of applications I’ve submitted, I’ve landed two (2) interviews. I walked away from both hearing (but of course it is never spoken aloud), “you’re too old.” In fact, my own church came closest to saying that outright to me. I’m also hearing that I’m over-qualified, but I know that. I’m not looking for another corporate gig that stays on my mind day and night. I want to contribute to my family’s income, be around other people, then go back home with time to write, garden and spoil my dogs. 

I‘ll give you another example of what my husband and I are hearing, and from our kids, no less. We’re old. We’re old-fashioned. We’re mis-informed. We’re geographically undesirable. We forget things they told us weeks or perhaps months ago. I’ve got news for the kids; I’ve been doing that for years. We’re not one of the top 10 most likely couples with whom they’re going to spend time, and that’s by choice. Oh sure, they’ll come to see us for holidays or if they need something. But texts happen more often than do calls, these days. Visits feel rushed. Phone calls feel, I don’t know, dutiful, sometimes. It makes me sad. 

These things bother me, because they make me doubt myself. They make me doubt the choices and decisions I’ve made in my life. They make me miss my younger kids, and the younger me. I think that part bothers me most of all. 

There are other reasons the “o” word has crept into our vocabularies and into our thoughts (“old.” I mean “old.”). We’re feeling old because the world is telling us we’re old. Our bodies mention it every now and then, too, but that’s a topic for another day. But 58? 55? My heart tells me we’re just getting started. My heart whispers, “Now it’s your turn to do the things you want to do – together, just the two of you.”

MORE THAN A NUMBER is a blog for all of us, not just for me to vent about my creeping uncertainty and frequent indignity. I can’t be alone in feeling these things. I want this blog to be a conversation, yes, in which we share experiences and more important, to lift each other up. I want this to be a place that we remind one another to celebrate having come this far. Too many are denied the privilege. 

Look for the next blog post this time next week, and bring your questions and observations. This will be a positive, honest, encouraging place for people like you, me and others in this exciting phase of life to share experiences and insight.

Until then, celebrate you!


Carole Townsend is a wife and mom, as well as a newspaper journalist and author of five books (the fifth to be published in 2019). You can check out her other books and columns at www.caroletownsend.com. Her dogs are indeed her loves, second only to her husband,’ and (most times) her children.

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