March 29, 2014

8 Things I Learned from a Female Journalist Who's Almost 50

I've always had a thing for talking to strangers. Recognizing other people, looking at them and engaging in conversation is to say, "I value that you are here, right now, in this moment." It may not be much, but in a city like New York it can make a world of difference. Attending several media events a month puts me in a position of having explain myself: what do I do? who do I work for? and so on.

The golden moment for me, however, is when I can connect with a stranger and we both share. We both listen- no explanations. After an event in Harlem last week, I caught up with Ms. J* -one of the most vibrant people I've met to date. What started off as small talk about the event and Scandal, evolved into a 3 hour conversation about life. The 48-year-old journalist certainly dropped knowledge on my 20-something self, and I just had to pass it along.

8) Romance isn't practical: Love and partnership lasts, romance not so much. Ms. J is currently not dating and not interested. The whirlwind of love, romance, and the heartache that comes with it can take years of your life. She mentioned past relationships that she was in, loved hard, and spent 2-5 years getting over. When you are finding or have found your groove, a romantic relationship doesn't always seem like the best use of time, and that's OK. This doesn't mean that it's ever too early or too late to find love, just that you shouldn't feel like that's what you should be doing at any given time. This leads me to...

7) Just do you: Ms. J doesn't drink because she doesn't like it. She's never had a problem she just thinks alcohol tastes gross, and honestly, most of it does. Don't give in to what other people think you should be doing. Being true to yourself and your own interest will take you far. I must also add that the woman looks damn good, so I'll probably be cutting back.

6) Stay in touch: My favorite stories from Ms. J were the ones about her sister friends. She has a hand-full of friends that check on her when they hear news about Harlem buildings collapse, and that she invites to movie premiers. As a journalist working mostly in entertainment and film, there is no shortage of celeb meetings. In addition, being a single woman gives her the ability to see her family and friends no matter what state or country the live in. Having love in your life is about maintaining those connections. Just because you have kids doesn't mean they'll see when you when you're 80 if you took the relationship for granted.

5) Make more money: "Why would I want to be old and still worrying about money? It just don't make sense." Ms. J is a freelancer with her own business. The mantra we are often told is to spend less and save more, but really we should all strive to make more money. I am not advocating that you can make millions and be reckless, but saving the same $100 year after year, won't get you half as far as saving 3x more every year you're working. Get more money, get an accountant, and don't let the government screw you on taxes.

4) There is a difference between being alone and lonely: Ms. J explained to me that many people try to feel sorry for her "situation." Being an older woman, never married, and childless would seem like a death sentence to some people, but not if your life is full of love and especially not if you love your freedom. Being lonely is feeling that lack of love. It often happens in a crowded room.

3) Men will always want to sleep with you: This one is pretty self explanatory, but I added it because as she told me about the men she's been turning down it reminded me that I am in no danger of losing "it." Knowing that someone will always want the cookie whether you're 18 or 80 takes the pressure off.   There is nothing more satisfying than waking up in your bed refreshed and ready for brunch, than sitting on the train thinking about some sex you should have just said "no" to the night before.

2) Be aware/stay in the know: "I knew there would be a Black president in my lifetime, just like there will be a female president in my lifetime," Ms. J said in the conversation. That was the first time I had heard an older Black person say that, ever, which blew my mind. She could have convinced me right then that she was a psychic on the side, but she cooly explained that she keeps herself in the know. Black CEOs, multi-millionaires, tech entrepreneurs were all signals to the "Change" we needed in 2008. Staying up on trends and current events is critical to successfully positioning yourself on the global landscape. If life is a game of chess, it pays to know who is moving where.

1) Never compromise yourself: Speaking of presidents, our conversation about Scandal led to the most important point of all. One of the big reasons Ms. J is not into the show is because it is not realistic, and the real-life Olivia Pope never had an affair with then President George Bush, Sr. She reminded me that when you have real skills, and have worked as hard as we work, you won't sacrifice it for something as silly as a fling. She mentioned all of the offers from men and women she's had over the years, but politely turned them down because they weren't worth it. At the end of the day Ms. J is still writing, traveling, and working like a boss. Yeah, I believe I'll follow that example.

NOW QUESTION
What are some things you've learned from talking to older professional women? Do you think the decision to be single and childless, helps or hurts professional women? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter!



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