When You’re No Longer the Youngest Person In the Room

When I was five years old, my mom was convinced that I was gifted. I’m sure I added to this crazy idea by being her only child who ran around the house wearing a superhero cape and quoting lines that I memorized from the books she read me. Gifted? I don’t think so. A free spirited book crusader? Absolutely.

After a few tests, I was sent from kindergarten to second grade. Skipping a grade, made me the youngest person in my class until I graduated from high school. I hung out with older friends and dated older boys. And many years later when it was my time, I married an older man and adopted his older friends. So when I turned forty last December, I didn’t really mind. I was still younger than everyone else I was with.

I’ve spent my whole life being the young one. The baby. The one with wide eyes and no wrinkles.

That is until recently.

A few weeks ago I attended a seminar with a hundred smart, accomplished entrepreneurs. I’m not just talking about people who started a business. I’m talking about people who have started and sold more than one multi-million dollar business – before the age of thirty. People who have been on the television show Shark Tank. People who have written New York Times best-selling books. People who have started schools in Africa. These were cool people. Make that cool young people.

And then there was me. I was in the minority of attendees who was (gasp) forty or older.

But I didn’t feel old even though their fresh faces lit up the room and their youthful enthusiasm bounced off the walls. I felt like I was just as young, that is until a woman in her twenties approached me and said, “Do you mind me asking how old you are?”

“Do I have to answer that?” I asked, with a nervous giggle. After a long pause I said, “I’m forty.” I could see the word “forty” floating in the space between us for what seemed like an eternity. I wanted to swat it away like a pesky fly.

“You look great for your age!” She said with a smile.

I smiled back, hoping she couldn’t hear the young voice screaming inside my head. “My AGE? My AGE? I’m only FORTY!” I was wounded and letting my pride ruin her compliment.

After she walked away, I put my ego aside and reminded myself of a few things.

I don’t feel forty. I feel twenty-five. I laugh and play and dance and sing. I may have a few wrinkles, but I’m just as wide-eyed as ever. And I’m still that free spirited girl who runs around the house quoting books. I don’t wear the cape anymore though. But maybe I should.

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