Strength in Numbers: How it feels to be 54

In this series, “How it feels to be…” I interview humans at different ages and stages of life. Today I sit down with 54-year-old Eli who is just beginning her summer vacation from the public school system. The five and a half foot woman with dark shoulder length hair is a former ballerina who I’ve written about here and a current blogger who writes here.  Eli shows me around her garden before we relax at her kitchen table with a big bag of only-the-good-flavored jelly beans. We pass the bag of candy back and forth while I observe her and her surroundings. She wears a casual printed top and a pair of jean shorts. A tattoo for her son who lives and works overseas adorns her shoulder. A tattoo of a flower for her late mother dots her wrist. She answers my questions softly, almost too softly to be heard over the kitchen fan in the corner.

What is making you happy right now?

Working in the garden.

What is bothering you?

I can’t find my password to WordPress. I have no clue what it is. Typical.

[Check out Eli’s work at MostlyMe]

Tell me a happy memory.

Because it’s summer… we used to go to a river where it was all dammed up. Coda and the boys would swim in the river. It would be an all day outing. Afterward, we would get ice cream at the Huntington General Store.

When is the last time you received an unexpected nice gesture?

You showing up to eat jelly beans.

[I shoved another mouthful of jelly beans in my mouth.]

At the teen retreat that I was just volunteering at, on the last day all the parents came to see the teens. I went out to get my lunch. Seeing all the parents going to see their teens made me think of my son and I just lost it. I made it to the dining hall before I started crying. One of the people came up to me and gave me a big hug. I said I was missing my son and he said: “I know”. It was nice. Seeing you is much better than crying though.

What is something small that you regret?

That’s interesting. Never doing something when I think of it because I don’t think I have the money to do it.

What is something big that you regret?

Not having started meditating when I was younger. I think life would have been a lot easier if I had.

What do you wish you did more of?

Playing the guitar. Playing any instrument. Doing my artwork.

[She strides across the kitchen into her craft room to show me framed collage of a horse in profile.]


My mom, just before she passed away signed up for six magazines. After she passed away, I had all these magazines laying around. I started ripping the colorful pages up. I took certain pages and made them into hearts. Then I started doing this. [She gestures to the horse.]

What do you wish you did less of?

Worrying that everything is going to work out.

What frightens you?

Fear frightens me. Being too afraid to try something because I’m afraid.

What are you looking forward to in the near future?

I’m going be doing the TESOL program (Teaching English to speakers of other languages) in August. It’s 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week for a month. It’s going to take care of that part of me that likes to learn for a while, I hope. It will also give me an opportunity to expand my career from working with preschoolers to working with adults too. It’ll be fun.

When you imagine yourself in your head, how old are you?

I’m 27. I’m still dancing, but I’m wearing blue jeans and this kind of flowy shirt. I’m dancing on the beach with all of the friends in my company. I’m happy. I’m on the edge of knowing but not quite knowing yet.

How do you feel about aging?

Good. Being older is calmer. Who knows, maybe part of that is that I’ve been meditating. You get to approach things differently than when you’re younger. It’s not that you know more, it’s just that you know the processes and what the outcomes will be and how to approach things. You also really just don’t give a shit anymore. [She laughs.] Which is not true, you do care.

What’s the best thing about being you?

That I get to look back now and see that it wasn’t always all bad. There were a lot of good things that I’m very happy about and that I appreciate. I let myself be open to that.

[That’s really nice.]

Oh, thank you.

[Do you want any jelly beans?]

Oh, are you kidding me? I have a whole other bag. I didn’t just buy them for you. I got you the same flavors I got me, see? [She holds up a solid half-pound bag of candy.]

…Without any licorice.


7 thoughts on “Strength in Numbers: How it feels to be 54

  1. Pingback: Strength in Numbers: A 12-year-old talks life | Stories for Strangers.

  2. Pingback: Want to be a part of my Strength in Numbers series? | Stories for Strangers.

  3. Pingback: How It Feels To Be Starting a New Business at 45-Years-Old | Strength in Numbers | Stories for Strangers.

  4. Pingback: “Something Resembling an Adult” | Strength in Numbers |How it feels to be 23 | Stories for Strangers.

  5. Pingback: “I want to mean something to someone.” | Strength in Numbers | How it Feels to be 18 | Stories for Strangers.

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