Theresa Drescher is a life and career coach at The Upside to Everything. That was not a career choice she considered when starting out in life, nor is it what she spent the first half of her life doing. Plans have a way of changing the longer you live. Life is funny that way.
Six weeks after she left her corporate job to go out on her own, she was diagnosed with cancer. Once she survived her ordeal she knew she had too much valuable experience not to share it and help others manage their journey. She began volunteering on a cancer helpline. That was nineteen years ago.
Her experience taught her that cancer may be the crisis but it’s your life that becomes the mess. There are many events, big and small, that upend our existence. How we handle them decides our future. This is when guidance and support become so important. After years of helping people put their lives on track after a life-threatening illness, and two years of personal-development and self-empowerment training, life and career coaching became a natural extension, and next step for her.
Here she recounts an eye opener leading to acceptance of her new place in the world.
My husband and I decided to take in a movie over the weekend. We don’t often see movies in the theater anymore, opting for HBO, Netflix or Amazon instead. It was quiet in the city, so we decided to venture out. Michael looked up show times as I went to our bedroom to change clothes.
“How much are tickets now?” I asked as I looked through a drawer for a T-shirt.
“$16.45,” he replied.
“$16.45! Wow!” I exclaimed.
“I hope we like the movie.”
“We can check out the senior discount, if you want,” he responded.
I didn’t reply.
“Dutchy?” he called out, his nickname for me.
“Dutchy? You okay?”
“It drops the cost to $13.45 a ticket.”
I was stunned by his statement. This is the first time the words “senior discount” have ever come up relative to either of us. Other than to complain about aches and pains in the morning, we don’t discuss our age. No reason, just don’t. He is a few years younger than I am, so I presumed I was the one who would have to get the tickets.
“What do you think?” he asked.
Thankfully I remembered it is 65 at the YMCA, my gym, to qualify for a senior discount. Relieved, I replied, “I may not be able to do it yet. I think senior discounts start at 65.”
“No. It’s 60.”
Really? I sat down hard at my dressing table. A feeling of fear washed over me. It scared me to think I qualified as a senior. I felt so out of sorts at the idea. I thought, Shouldn’t I know more by now? About anything? Everything? Aren’t things supposed to make sense by the time you are 60? There is so much I don’t know yet! Why don’t I have more answers? Why don’t I know more than I do??? I am not old enough to be 61! I stared at the floor feeling confused and a bit panicked.
“Dutchy? You okay?”
“Yes, fine. Okay.”
I pushed the envelope in my 20s and 30s because I thought 40 was the “adult” decade when life became boring. I was wrong. Not only did I marry the best guy ever, I traveled around the world for my job, survived breast cancer, was a mermaid in the Coney Island parade, started a nonprofit, changed careers, found my voice, and learned to say no. It was terrific. I thought it must be 50 when I would suffer a midlife crisis. Nope, it was my favorite birthday ever, and in the decade that followed, I had some of my best moments. So, when it came to 60, I did not pay any attention to my friends who said it was the game-changer birthday. The one you really felt.
The first time I saw 60 in print next to my name was on a doctor’s chart. Perfect. My jaw dropped, and I stared at it for a moment. It was surreal. I shook my head and dismissed the idea that this was my age. I handed the chart back to the receptionist, picked up my coffee and walked to the waiting room. I have heard friends talk about their senior discounts for a myriad of things for several years now, but never once did I think I too qualified. Seriously, it never crossed my mind. I did not even realize that more companies than just AARP offered senior discounts at the age of 50!
I thought, Well, I am not taking this senior discount thing lying down. Instead of just freshening up my lipstick, I cleaned my face and started over. I massaged multiple line-smoothing, dark-spot-correcting, collagen-plumping, wrinkle-filling, redness-reducing, moisture-packed creams into my skin. I followed that with tinted primers, foundation, “special disguise” concealer, serum to make my skin glow and bronzer for that sun-kissed look. Then I finished with my favorite red lipstick. I pulled on my well-worn 501 jeans, put on a white button-down shirt and laced up my Chuck Taylors and made sure I had my ID. I felt pretty good about myself.
We get to the theater, and Michael hands me $30 for the tickets. I stepped up to the window. “Two senior tickets for The Big Sick at 10:10, please.”
The kid looks up and says into the microphone, “That will be $26.90,” without a second glance.
Really!? Nothing? Not a “May I see some ID, please?” Not a moment of uncertainty? I am barely 61! N O T H I N G!?
I walked away crestfallen. I turned to Michael as we rode the escalator up to the theaters and growled, “I am highly insulted he didn’t ask me for ID.”
“Look at him,” he said, chuckling, “He is about 20 years old. Did you think he was going to challenge you on this?”
“If he was at all kind he would have!” I snarled.
We get to the top of the escalator, and Michael still has a big smile on his face over the whole ordeal. He puts his hand out for the change.
I looked at him incredulous!
“No way! I just earned this!”
As we waited for the movie to start, I watched 20- and 30-year-olds fill up the theater. I imagined their lives now and mine at their age. Those were some rollicking fun years that turned out better than I imagined, or than they should have, but I wouldn’t want to repeat them. It was those years of near misses, hard knocks, painful experiences and difficult times that taught me I had a voice and trained me to use it, or not. That was when my life finally began to work for me.
My voice has awarded me the freedom, assurance and well-being I lacked when I was younger — luxuries I earned over time and would not give back in exchange for the years. I realized that was the game-changer that altered my life, not a birthday. Growing older, acquiring knowledge and gaining experience won’t do much for you if you don’t find your voice and use it.
Find out more about The Upside to Everything.
Photo: Franklin Thompson, ULTA Beauty, Breast Cancer campaign 2017.