Updated: Feb 7, 2020
Girl, get yourself some grandma friends!
I've just come back from a women's retreat at my church. Five hours of reflecting, writing, listening to stories from inspiring speakers, and connecting with others. No kids, no laundry folding, no dog barking at the neighbors. Peace and my thoughts and coffee. Yes, sign me up! Throughout the experience, I found myself equally calmed and inspired, which is a sweet spot I so rarely get to feel.
If I am honest though, I will admit that I almost didn't go. This was, in fact, my first time to a retreat like this. My worry: would there be anyone else there like me? I didn't round up a friend to go with me, and the handful of moms and mid-career professionals like me I talked to weren't able to attend. So as I arrived this morning to the retreat, I looked around the room, took a deep breathe, and sure enough only a small percentage of the good-sized group of women were my age. Many were grandmas, retired or soon-to-be retired women. I took a seat, introduced myself, and poured my coffee.
Luckily, this has not been my first experience being one of the only younger women in a group, and, fortunately, I did know some of the women a generation ahead of me. You see, two years ago I joined my local church choir, again after another couple years wasted in contemplation of doing so. Singing is one of my greatest joys. I studied vocal music in college and had the amazing privilege of singing at Carnegie Hall with our combined college choirs. Yet, even with my love of vocal music, I almost did not share my love of music because I would be one of the only younger people in the choir.
How many other opportunities for growth or joy or living into our gifts have we missed out on because we worried "if there would be anyone like us there?" Perhaps it is evolutionary to seek like-people, or perhaps we have been conditioned to from our early days in middle school where we worried who we would sit by in the cafeteria. Potential awkwardness aside, I have been so thankful that, in these cases, I did not let that fact stop me from taking action.
"How many other opportunities for growth or joy or living into our gifts have we missed out on because we worried "if there would be anyone like us there?"
I have been so blessed by the mentorships and friendships I have developed from women who are a generation ahead of me. Both of "the Carols" in my life have offered me, by osmosis and proximity, a grounding perspective and have probably kept me in teaching all these year, truth be told. Likewise, I have valued friendships from those the generation after me, even though when they tell me their graduation year from high school, I think "impossible," and, "clearly, I must have heard wrong."
Conversations with women from across different generations provide a valuable perspective as we transition from season to season in our life's journey. When I connect and listen to stories of struggles overcome and lives well-lived, I am reminded that the path is rarely a straight and singular one. I stop judging and comparing mine with those around me. Grace can enter the open space. Perseverance, trust, risk-taking, doubling back to rejoin a once-abandoned path, grieving through loss, troubling diagnoses, commitment to friends and to community-- these have all been gifts of experience that have been shared with me, though they maybe don't even realize it, by my grandma friends.