For most of her younger life, she actually wanted to be a boy. You see, she knew that her father had wanted a son, and yet instead her parents got her—a spindly, pale-faced little redhead daughter who wasn’t a jock or a dancer, but someone stuck somewhere in between. Half of the time, she was convinced that her father didn’t know what to make of her. Perhaps, trying to fulfill his secret wishes for a boy, she behaved more like a tomboy and did her best to throw a ball like a dude and not be too feminine. Or worse, be weak and prissy.
Over time, her personality evolved with a more male-driven flair. Nature versus nurture, who’s to decide? As a child, she was aggressive, mouthy, argumentative and of course always right. In grade school, she hung out with boys and smirked at the wimpy girls in dresses on the other side of the playground. In high school, she ran races hard and relished those moments when she passed guys before the finish line. In her college days, she cussed like a sailor with a devilish grin, especially when the girls around her did not. She fought for justice, argued her point and sought a good debate with the aggression of Atilla the Hun—just as many of her girlfriends chose the more righteous path of submission, acceptable assertiveness, or simply smiled coyly and “let it go”. Her plans for her future were always grand, and included escaping the small-town life that she had been born into, to fight and claw her way up the corporate ladder alongside the other ‘suits’ towards success, power and ultimately, prestige.
Now, however, she knows that she is no longer that tomboy-girl. She is a mother, wife, writer and a host of other titles. She is also a week shy of her forty-seventh birthday, and facing the second half of her life. She finds herself reflecting back on the years with a mixture of both irony and appreciation. Irony, because she is now (attempting to) raise her own child who as it turns is just like her. He talks back at every opportunity, he loves to get the last word in, and of course, in his mind he is forever right. She is not the big-time CEO that she had always envisioned she would be, but rather an as-yet, non-bestselling author who left the corporate world of executive sales to follow her heart and soul in the written word. And, the girl who knew that she had once turned her back on her feminine softer side, has more recently tapped into those wonderful ‘girly’ attributes that she now realizes can make her whole.
The matter of appreciation comes from her widened ability to see both sides of the coin, at least most of the time, to understand that the world isn’t always black and white or even grey, and to realize that being right isn’t really what it’s cracked up to be. She finds herself listening more and talking less. She looks forward to the prospect of dressing up “like a girl” and going out on the town. She still runs hard, though that’s more to keep her aging body in shape. For the benefit of those around her, including her children, her usage of four-letter words has politely simmered down. She can even find that the simple act of sitting quietly while her daughter brushes her hair and uses her tiny hands to create a lovely braid, is so endearing that it nearly brings tears to her eyes.
She has had so many epiphanies along the road of self-discovery; if only she had written them all down. She can see that life truly is mostly attitude, and five percent all the rest. She knows that money is well and good, but it’s only missed when it’s no longer there. Parenting her children has broken her down, perhaps equally as much as she has tried to build them up. Marriage can be tough, too, and requires far more than they ever tell you before you dreamily say “I do.”. She firmly believes by the time you are her age, though, that you can no longer use your childhood, your parents, siblings, or any other factor that may have helped ‘negatively’ shape who you are, as an excuse for bad behavior. By the mid-life mark, people should be capable of making their own decisions, and more importantly, for taking responsibility for them at every turn. Keep it simple, stupid, as they used to teach her in sales school, and be kind to her. Be caring and thoughtful. Ultimately, just show her the love, not the money.
Life is tough, though, don’t mistake this. It’s not always going to be fair. It can be dark, lonely, scary and tiring. It can tear you down in seconds, take the rug out from under you and leave you lying on your back staring at the cracked ceiling above and wondering where it all went wrong. And yet, as that tossed coin of black and white rotates over-and-over again in the air of chance, this woman also now sees that there can always be light in the darkness, and truth in who you are—whether it be through your God, your friends or family, your own self-preservation, or sheer stubbornness. No matter what trials you face, there can be a positive approach and even a positive outcome to everything. The key is to be yourself, honor your strengths and let go your mistakes. Know that the brightness of your life can only shine as widely as you allow it, and the candle of hope and grace and love will keep burning. Sometimes, you just need to turn the other way to see it. Because life is good, and even though this ‘old’ girl understands that she is not always right, she is a woman of purpose and strength who knows that she is right about this.