When I am Young, I Will Wear Purple


When my grandmother turned 75, she told me that for the first time in her life, she felt like she might be getting old. This was 25 years ago when the typical lifespan of a female was 72 years old.

I remember thinking two things when she made that statement. The first — how weird for an old person not to feel old, and the second — maybe 75 isn’t that old after all.

For me, it was a life-altering moment.

I was just about to graduate college and looking forward, wondering where I was going then and where I would be in the future. I felt like I was being thrown out into the real world and for the first time, I would be totally responsible for taking care of myself and I wasn’t sure I knew how. Then Grandma said her thing and suddenly I saw that I didn’t have to figure it all out right away. The pressure to get a good job, to write the novel I was supposed to write, to get married and have children dissipated. Heck, I had at least 60 more years to go before my descent would begin.

And I’ve continued to believe. Despite all of the struggles, all the aches and pains, all the disappointments I’ve had over the years (good things have happened too :)), I’ve never stopped thinking that I wouldn’t feel old until at the very earliest, 75 years old.

Every February for the last ten or so years, five friends and I go out to celebrate our birthdays (well one friend is born in June but we let her come because her husband’s birthday is in February and we like her company). Planning the night out is always an ordeal because six women with jobs and families and crazy schedules can’t always find an evening in February when we all are free. But it’s a favorite night for all of us so we do what we can to make it happen and always manage to succeed.

This year we waited until the 29th to have our annual celebration. I just got home a few minutes ago.

At the end of the meal, as we were waiting for the waiter to return with our bill, I asked my friends for ideas to write about for this blog post. One friend said that I should talk about birthdays. Okay, I thought, but what about birthdays?

Then she told a story about bumping into a friend at her son’s basketball game the night before. She knew that he had turned 50 a few days earlier, so she wished him happy birthday and asked him how he was settling in to his fifties. According to my friend, he was all smiles but his wife, who was seated beside him in the bleachers, was frowning and blurted out something negative about how could you settle into something as terrible as turning 50 years old. The birthday boy’s wife sounded angry, irritated that somebody could suggest that turning 50 might be a good thing.

At first glance, you might think my friend is a surface person. From head-to-toe, she is put together, all of the time. She’s fit, dresses well, and has a beautiful face and figure. But looks can be deceiving. My friend has a lot going on inside her head and she articulates her thoughts better than most people I know.

The way my friend described it, this woman’s remark threw her off-guard. And yet, in typical form, instead of flailing around for a response, she simply stated what rose up in her mind, and my guess is that she didn’t stumble as she spoke. She told the woman that she thought getting older was a good thing. You become more of who you are with each year and she has no interest in going backward. Then she told her (and us) about how one of her uncles died suddenly when he was 49 years old. He left his wife and three pre-teen and teenaged children. His death deeply affected my friend, who was older than her cousins but only by a few years.

For her, It was a life-altering moment.

She realized that her uncle would never see his boys grow up; he would never walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding; he would not grow old with his wife. And ever since then, she’s thought that anybody who turns fifty or fifty-one or fifty-two is lucky. Every year is a blessing. Every year past 49 is another year to watch your children grow, to be there to see them through proud and difficult times, to spend quality time with your spouse and your friends and your family and yourself.

My friend’s lesson may have come in the form of an unfortunate death while mine came in the form of a fully-realized life, but we both had life-altering moments that brought us to the same place. Life is an amazing gift. If we spend our time worrying about what we no longer are or what we might become, we miss out on who we are and how much there is to learn each day.

At that basketball game, my friend told the unhappy woman that she was proud of her age and that she would tell anybody that she is now 46. Only four more years until she gets to be 50.

I have only three more years until fifty. And 28 more years before I might start to feel old.


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25 thoughts on “When I am Young, I Will Wear Purple

  1. What a terrific post! And I love this: “If we spend our time worrying about what we no longer are or what we might become, we miss out on who we are and how much there is to learn each day.”

    Beautiful and true!

  2. What a great perspective! I’ve never minded (yet) getting older. I just turned 40 this year and that didn’t even bother me. I like who I am not more than I did 10 or 20 years ago. I’m more confident and comfortable with myself. Would I want to go back and change some things — maybe, but not enough to have to live all the years in between again!

  3. I love this: ” Life is an amazing gift. If we spend our time worrying about what we no longer are or what we might become, we miss out on who we are and how much there is to learn each day.”

    Sister, you not only have a way with words, but you always seem to have something great to share!

  4. I love how our conversation inspired this blog and I love how it is written! Thank you for using the story of my Uncle to make the point how we are truly blessed for each year God gives us!

    1. It was a wonderful story that inspired all of us, I think. I just wanted to put it out in the world to inspire a few more people. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  5. 80 is the new 75 for me and my friends. Unlike our parents, we are able to be active in our communities and enjoy life despite our age. Our main fear is that we will lose our independence because of illness or some other unforeseen circumstance. Until that time of reckoning, we savor each moment of our lives.

    1. Mom! You wrote on my blog! Yay!
      80 definitely is the new 75 and you and your friends are proof of that (even if you aren’t quite that age yet). I hope I will still be so involved in my community in thirty years. Hopefully the invasion of teenagers in a couple of weeks won’t slow you down too much. πŸ™‚

  6. Hi Sara, how perfectly you captured our birthday girls’ dinner and the story shared by our beautiful friend. Although I’m certainly feeling more aches and pains and discovering new wrinkles by the day….growing old is a blessing. Another Happy Feburary Birthday to my ‘old friend’!!

  7. Lovely, lovely post, Sara. You always have such beautifully written posts. They are a joy to read. And this one was especially so. πŸ™‚

  8. My mom is 86 and still drives herself to Arizona and back (1,000 miles one-way), bakes the best pies in creation, does her own grocery shopping and laughs at everything. I marvel at that. Thanks for a sensitive, well-written reminder that youth comes in all kinds of packages!

    1. I love that “youth comes in all kinds of packages.” Your mom sounds like quite an impressive woman. We should all wish to have that kind of energy in the years to come.

  9. Great post! Personally, I have enjoyed getting older, even if I don’t always think of myself as getting older.
    I am in a community theatre, and spend a lot of time with people of various ages. Last week, I was out to dinner with a a group of girls for our monthly girls night (always alcohol free). Two of these ladies are 10+ years younger than me, and one is a senior in HS. The younger girls tend to ask up questions about things that come up that they may not be as comfortable talking to their parents about. I was talking to the youngest’s mom the next day, and she said her daughter told her about some of the conversations we had the night before. She said she was just glad that they were coming to actual adults to discuss the stuff, rather to friends and “twenty-something kids.” My first reaction was to say that I wasn’t sure I was any more of an adult than a twenty-something (I am 34), and that most of the group was late twenties to early thirties.
    In spite of the fact that I have been married for almost 10 years, my husband and I still think of ourselves as young. Even though I can see a definite difference in the maturity between myself and the younger girls in the group, I can still relate to them, and we can all have a great time together.
    That being said, there are some great parts about being older–the confidence to declare myself a “writer,” the financial ability to do so. I have found my thirties to be much more enjoyable that my 20s, and I look forward to my forties (not that I am rushing it).
    And, judging from the fun that my parents are having at 53 and 56 (they were very young when I was born), the fifties promise to be even better. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks so much for your response. I love hearing about people of all ages interacting and getting something from being together. I can tell you that the 40s are even better than the 30s, although as you say, don’t miss out on where you are.

  10. The timing of your post is uncanny, Sara. Just yesterday, I answered a question about my age with, “i’m not fifty!” (I’m 47) and realized this answer can apply in all of my years to come, except for the fiftieth.

    There is only one year in our lives we get to be fifty, And only one moment that we get to be exactly who we are right now.

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