What’s your numba?

When my Mother turned seventy, I asked her how she felt being seventy years old. She looked at me with complete sincerity and said she didn’t really feel any different at seventy then she did at eighteen. In her mind, she hadn’t aged at all. She said she was more experienced with life but her true self was still that eighteen year old woman.

My Mother’s mantra on age was the old saying, “You’re only as old as you feel!” This was so ironic because to look at my Mother you truly saw an old woman. She was very sedentary so she was slow on her feet, she smoked for over fifty years and suffered with COPD, so physically she looked way beyond her years. To speak with her though, you were speaking with a progressive, hip, cool woman!

I am not quite sure I could wrap my head around what she was talking about back when she was seventy. I, myself, was in the throws of raising three children and super involved in the daily chaos of life as a stay at home Mom. Now, at fifty-three, almost fifty-four, I totally get it. I wish my Mother was still here so I could tell her that I understand how she felt.

Age is truly just a number. At fifty-two I found myself looking for something else to do with my time. I had graduated from college in the Stone Age and was lucky to get a terrific job in my field, market research. I married two years after graduation and two years later in 1988 gave birth to my first born, hence ending my career outside of the home. So twenty-six years later with three children raised, I was looking for work again.

In my quest for employment it was apparent that unless I wanted to work retail, I wasn’t employable. Ouch! Now retail is a very noble profession. For me, it just wasn’t something I wanted to pursue. At the encouragement of my youngest kidult, I decided to go with what I thoroughly enjoyed and loved, childcare. It was a brilliant idea! The planets aligned and through nothing short of a miracle I began working for a terrific young family. The parents were professionals and the Mom was re-entering the workforce on a part time basis, perfect!

I was not prepared for the lessons I would learn by having a three year old boss. The boss was not the oldest, I was also watching her four year old brother, I referred to him as the associate. In a matter of days it was clear though, the three year old wore the pants, skirt, leggings, and tutu.

My boss warmed up to me over a period of time. Once I had gained her confidence she began to interrogate me on life. “Elwyn, what’s your numba?” Now my name is Ellen and I wasn’t quite sure what she meant so I assumed she was asking what my favorite number was. I told her my favorite number was four. She laughed at me and told me in no uncertain circumstances that I was incorrect. Four was the associate’s “numba” I learned. Then I realized she was asking me how old I was.

When I told my boss I was fifty-three the associate laughed out loud and told me I was NOT fifty-three. He then told me that fifty-three was almost one hundred. I know they couldn’t really process age but they knew enough that grown ups had higher “numbas.” I immediately told my boss and her associate that fifty-three was NO WHERE CLOSE TO ONE HUNDRED! I was overly dramatic in my delivery which had them squealing with laughter.

It was then that I realized that I really didn’t see myself as fifty-three either! Numbers are just that….they are numbers. I will not attach myself to a number. My boss and her associate laughed at my “numba” and now I do too!

I truly feel the same as I did in college. The years my not have been kind to my physical appearance but in my mind I am the exact same person. I still love what I loved in college and still love the same people I loved back then too. I believe I have evolved as a person throughout the years but my core is still the same.

So as I approach fifty-four I will not focus on the “numba,” instead I will relish in the incredible benefits of being this age. I no longer care what others think of me. I never realized how freeing my fifties would be! I now live a life of gratitude, take nothing for granted, and have a new found freedom.

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