I recently celebrated my 44th birthday. As a woman who has never been self-conscious about her age, I celebrate each birthday with as much enthusiasm as the previous one. However, I believe I am in the minority since as I grow older most of my female friends tend to forget to mention their age, and sometimes don’t even celebrate their birthdays at all.
I’m not sure when I was supposed to erase March 11 from my calendar, but it’s hard to be bitter about reaching middle age when I see the accomplishments women much older than I have made.
Take, for instance, Sister Marion Irvine. She is an American nun who didn’t start running until she was 47-years-old. She began to run for health reasons, because she was overweight and smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. Achieving the nickname “Flying Nun,” Sister Marion went on to to qualify for the Olympic marathon trials at the age of 54, making her the oldest person to do so. Irvine broke several records in distance running throughout her career, and was inducted into multiple running halls of fame.
One of my favorite television shows growing up was “Little House on the Prairie,” starring Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls. The show was based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which were also stacked on my shelves. But did you know that Mrs.Wilder didn’t publish those books until she was 64-years-old? It was her daughter that encouraged her to document her life on the farm and her marriage to “Manly” Almanzo. Wilder continued the series until the age of 76.
When you think of a video game champion, the image of a teenage boy comes to mind. But Doris Self made video game history when she gained recognition as the “world’s oldest video game champion” at the age of 58. She spent the next 20-years defending that title, and was even recognized by the Guinness World Records in 2007 as the World’s Oldest Video Game Competitor. Her games of choice were Q*Bert and Donkey Kong.
You (hopefully) read about Golda Meir in your history books, but what you might not have learned is that Ms. Meir was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She moved to the Middle East with her husband, and at 49-years-old she was named Israel’s ambassador to the Soviet Union. At 55 she became the Foreign Minister to Israel. And at 70-years-old she because the first female Prime Minister of Israel.
Anna Mary Robertson Moses had arthritis, and by the age of 76 she could no longer hold embroidery needles. She realized she couldn’t just sit and do nothing, so she tried her hand at painting. Better-known as Grandma Moses, she painted every day and turned out more than 1,000 paintings during the next 25 years. By the time of her death her paintings were in museums in New York, Vienna, and Paris.
Julia Child is heralded as one of the most famous chefs in history. She was spoofed on “Saturday Night Live” and portrayed by Academy Award winner Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia.” But it wasn’t a lifetime of cooking that lead Child to her fame. Child published her first cookbook when she was 49-years-old. Her first television program aired when she was 51. Child’s kitchen, which served as the backdrop for many of her TV shows, is currently on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. She even has a rose named after her.
I like celebrating my birthday, and enjoy the idea I was worth being born. And no matter how old you are, when you look through the windshield rather than the rear view mirror, you find there’s a lot of road left to drive. Compared to these ladies, I’m still a baby.