The Invisible Cape of Aging
It felt like it happened within seconds. Just like that, my opinions or suggestions did not seem important. I had worked in the field of education for close to 34 years; 24 of them in one district; 17 in the same building, and within what seemed a flick of a switch, I sensed I was not valuable anymore. Not wanted anymore. My strengths were refined, my capabilities strong. I was seasoned enough to know when to step in and when to allow others to lead and not personalize the outcomes. And, most importantly, I loved my work. So what changed? My age.
It became very noticeable when I started working with a new supervisor. While I had reservations about experience and abilities, I also know it is about who you surround yourself with that creates the good work. I believe supporting leaders is about supporting the work. However, what I never expected is reservations about my experience and abilities. In fact, I didn’t see it coming.
It started in small ways. Not being asked for my input regarding changes or sharing of new ideas, yet asked if I completed my work with any trouble. Addressing everyone else in meetings before me. Others on my team being asked for information in spite of me being team lead. I became invisible. In a short amount of time I was being silently told I was no longer needed. I met this silence with silence, and in this, I lost my voice.
I am not a loud person, but I pride myself on using my voice for myself and those I serve. I see big pictures and I like to help connect the dots and create the ‘whys’ for all to understand. Thus, when I started to realize I could no longer connect the dots on why I wasn’t included or valued in my work, I lost my balance. I lost my stride. It seemed the only uniqueness I offered was being the oldest in the room. I was hurt, suddenly embarrassed and uncomfortable with my age, and I continued to feel invisible. I felt like I was wearing an invisible cape that I could not take off. And this cape held no super-powers.
So, where did this leave me? I quit the job I used to love. I walked out the door and didn’t look back. In doing so, I found my voice, I became stronger in my purpose and I embraced my age. I embraced the wrinkles and unexpected tinkles that make up this perfectly imperfect person that I am, at the age I am. Underneath the invisible cape I no longer wear, is a brightly colored, strong spirited, gifted woman who likes to talk and wears scarves instead.
I now choose to live by these beautiful words from Vlada Mars: “We are connected by simple wishes: to be visible, to be heard, to know that we matter.” So true.