Shift the narrative, one achievement at a time
The marketing blitzkrieg around Women’s Day brought many issues to the front. It took me longer to put down these words with all the information that I was being bombarded with. Lately, I have been mulling the concept of being ‘late to the party’: doing things on your own schedule and not what society and culture dictates. In terms of phrases, I prefer being ‘late to the party’ ‘ than being a ‘late bloomer’.
Let me give you a personal example, I met my husband at 35 and got married at 37 later than what is considered normal. I am happy that I waited but, at the time, I felt left behind. You see all these images, of how marrying before 30 is an example of success. But, if someone were to do research today, they would find more women marrying after 30.
Today, I want to talk about age and success, and how the two aren’t necessarily linked.
Is being successful young the only success?
Let’s look at careers. The 30 Under 30 lists in media publications highlights achievements of those under that age. Got an international position by 30? Heading a business unit by 30? It means you are successful and on the path to becoming a CEO. For lesser mortals like us, one assumes we will never reach there. Does that mean I am going to atrophy with age because I’ve reached 40? Truth is, my experience has helped me see things clearly and I can contribute more meaningfully. The struggle to find my footing, both personally and professionally, has made me more resilient and I work harder to do things that give me a sense of fulfilment. I think these are going to be my best years, yet!
If you find yourself struggling because you think you are too ‘old’ for something, this may help.
Be like a creator
This past year I had the privilege to immerse myself in a community of painters, potters, woodworkers, soap makers and chefs whilst in Goa. They do not climb any corporate ladder. They create for the sake of creating and get their dues after years of honing their skills. Be like them: take your time.
Just do it your way
Recently I read an article that listed out women who had achieved success later in life. The list unfortunately, did not include any Indian women, so I thought I would make my own. This is a reminder that society and culture do not dictate your achievement timeline.
– Bhavna Tokekar won four gold medals at the World Powerlifting Championship at the age of 47.
– Falguni Nayyar started her business at 49 and went on to take beauty and lifestyle company Nykaa public. Now at 61, she is the wealthiest self-made woman in India.
Girija Venkatesan started cycling at age 63 and is now a grandma that runs, cycles and swims long distances.
– At 81 years Usha Soman turned fitness guru and is an inspiration to people who think there’s a right age to get fit.
– Saalumarada Thimmakka is an environmental crusader known for planting over 8,000 banyan (Ficus) trees in her lifetime. In 2016, the BBC named the 105 year old in their list of 100 most influential women.
– Mastanamma from Guntur village in Andhra Pradesh was the world’s oldest YouTuber at 107 years (she recently expired). At 105, she started her own channel Country Cooking where she showcased local and unusual dishes. According to the WHO (2021), India ranks high in a global list of countries most biased against the elderly. It was shocking to read. The WHO report goes on to say that specific cultures — including Indian— do view older people with deference, but that is merely outward cultural obedience rather than actual respect. Clearly, as a culture and society, we need to introspect about how we view accomplishments in terms of age. We maybe old but that does not mean we are out of date; this applies to both women and men.
Break that age bias
Our society is obsessed with start-up CEO’s under the age of 30. Although they maybe the poster boys of success it should be balanced out by praising older folk who have put in their time. One trajectory does not outweigh the other. If you have the skills, your age should not be a deterrent. Just like we are normalising coming back to work after a baby, or taking days off for your periods, we should also normalise making a pivot or even just achieving milestones when you are older!
What are your thoughts on this? Is age just a number? Share stories of your ‘late’ successes.