How time can change people indeed—30 years after high school graduation, especially. It’s both surprising and happy to see the mousy girls who blossomed into beautiful ladies; the boyish girls who married the earliest; the quiet ones who became doctors, bankers, and lawyers; and many others who migrated to different parts of the world, and now basking in multi-cultural marriages.
It seems truest that one can never really predict how lives will turn out to be. Yet oddly, bonds built 30 years ago remain as strong as the day they were first made.
My closest chums once quipped that in our midlives, we find it more difficult to make new friends who in turn will stand by you through trying times. The more discerning manner by which we take on new friends must also be part of growing old. On the other hand, the ease with which many of us rekindle old ties with childhood friends seems to be brought also by a shared history. That shared history in the end makes conversations light and funny yet, earnest.
It’s quite intriguing how many of my high school classmates seem to have defied the cultural narrative alluded to when women reach midlife. People would think that 30 years after high school, most middle-aged ladies would be depressed, menopausal, and demoralized with changing physiques. Luckily, at least in this day and age, there seems to be more focus on women’s midlife well-being and happiness—a perspective so many females now revel in.
A research by Sharon McQuaid (1998) envisaged the factors that make up a woman’s well-being and sense of satisfaction in midlife. As it turns out, her research confirmed what we knew all along—that happy middle-aged women have a close confidante or a group of women friends, good health, a high sense of self-esteem, well-defined goals for the future and a positive life narrative. Far from the traditional notions that previous generations lived with, women now seem to have built better identities from opportunities gained in the workplace, in their family life and even in social organizations.
What is most striking about McQuaid’s work though points to the fact that it was not so much what the women had but rather what they did with it that made the biggest difference to their wellbeing. She further expounds that if a woman was blocked from “being in the world” because of poor health, unemployment or limited spending power, she was more likely to be dissatisfied and miserable. “Being a player” seems to be critical to a woman’s wellbeing.
For many of my peers and I who had dreaded meeting up 30 years hence, we must have agonized unnecessarily. The friendships borne many decades back and now rekindled reaffirm the value of confidantes and girlfriends in midlife. As it turned out too, most of my peers find themselves embracing a stable career and a growing family. Maybe it was in finding one’s place in the world that has kept this bunch of ladies in high spirits. Having defied the stereotype of the aging middle-aged woman has made for one lucky bunch indeed. I’m pretty sure the German nuns would be smiling if they saw this lot now. And so, for all ladies out there, do make time even for a simple get-together over coffee and cake with your best friends.