Well, here I am. Sixty-seven years old and wondering what the hell happened! It was not supposed to be like this. I was promised happily ever after and a house with a white picket fence! Where’s my knight in shining armor? Why are the kids still here?
Let’s start at the beginning. I grew up in 1950’s America—Father Knows Best, Campbell’s Soup, Hula Hoops, and a mother who was waiting for me to come home from school with milk and cookies. Idyllic times. A shame the kids of today will never have that experience of safety, innocence, an intact family, and a belief in something bigger than oneself.
I followed the rules. I gave up pursing a career in law and got married because I was supposed to, had children because I thought I would be sorry if I didn’t, and bought a house because it was part of the American Dream. Marriage is over, children never left, house is a money pit. So much for that fairy tale.
Needless to say I was unprepared for divorce, and the prospect of making a living and taking care of my children was terrifying. I had taken up body building while getting back in shape after having my children. I decided to parlay that into my own business, and Barbara’s Body Shop was born. I built a very successful business for myself, and managed to support my family nicely. This was in the Opulent Eighties. People had so much money they did not think twice about spending it. The years passed and little by little the gyms and fitness clubs started to spring up on every other block, or so it seemed to me. Slowly but surely my business was eroded, and a few years ago I found myself down to just a few clients. Now I am in my sixties and back in the fitness field trying to get hired as a personal trainer and fitness instructor. I could have tried to find a job in the workplace, but 20 plus years of huge hourly fees made that very unpalatable, to say the least.
It got to the point that I had no choice but to go back out there. Well, what a surprise to me that no one wanted to hire a woman in her sixties. I had 30 plus years experience teaching fitness and yoga classes privately, teaching adult education and a background in diet and nutrition. Every interview I went on I found myself competing with 20-something year olds who knew nothing about motivating people, no experience working with seniors, and no private training or teaching experience. They had no poise, no wisdom and nothing that I could see that would make them a better candidate than me for the job. What they did have was youth, and that was a commodity that I would never have again.
Disgusted and defeated, I used nepotism to get a job at the veterinary hospital where my daughter works. I was hired as a customer service coordinator. It was fine for my needs. I got to stay active, talk to people, use my brain and kiss the animals. We often got visits from Corporate to see how things were in the trenches. Whenever they were there they would pretend to care about how we felt and ask for our input, thoughts, concerns. I noticed that no one ever opened their mouths, even though I knew how dissatisfied they all were as we discussed it regularly. Being at that age where I am not afraid to say what’s on my mind, I addressed a concern I was having about the way we were being rated on job performance. The next day I was told I was being taken off the schedule. There was no explanation, and no one had a conversation with me about it. I have not been put back on the schedule since that happened, about six weeks ago, despite numerous conversations with my Practice Manager. She keeps telling me she can’t fit me in with my availability. This of course, is an attempt to have me quit.
So what do I take away from this? After I got over my indignation and outrage, I started to think about this in human terms. It saddens me that people are so cold, callus, calculating and insensitive to others. I am a senior citizen with a limited income and half of it was taken away from me. Fortunately for me, I am not in the position of losing my house or starving to death, but did they know that? NO they did not, and judging by their actions, they probably would not give a damn if I were. What happened to integrity, kindness and fairness? I guess it went by the way of the Hula Hoop. Sad. I am grateful though, that I did get to grow up in a world where people had their humanity in tact.