On a daily basis, on television, with friends, with strangers, I hear something about the age of thirty. And I love hearing these comments, even when they’re negative - Like when I was at the pool in Vegas for my 30th birthday and this 24-year-old guy from Chicago (who looked 38) asked which birthday I was celebrating. I wouldn’t tell him and he says, “Come on, as long as you’re not thirty.” I could see my friends wince in reaction but I stopped them from coming to my defense because I truly love comments like these. They validate the reason I write this, that I am onto something real, something in the general culture that hasn’t been addressed and should be. It’s this nebulous social more that goes mostly unrecognized, no one actually says, “If you haven’t accomplished x, y and z by the time you hit this age, you’re a loser” – but it’s pervasively there and it can make people afraid to try something because they think they’re too old, shame them for not measuring up to where they think they should be by that point, hold them back from their full potential because they never question where these beliefs are stemming from, they just believe them. And if you don’t question something, you can’t change it.
I was watching “The X Factor” premiere tonight and Stacy Francis, a beautiful 42-year-old woman takes the stage. When she announces her age, her voice lilts at the end in uncertainty, as if she’s afraid she might get laughed off the stage right then. Simon asks, “Why do you think this hasn’t worked out for you? Why haven’t you had the break?” She says, “I just sorta got stuck. I mean, I’ve been told I’m too old since I’m thirty so I’ve been living for twelve years believing I’m too old. I don’t want to die with this music in me, Simon.” I was already crying along with her. She was telling my story.
I’ve been beating myself up that I’m thirty years old with nothing to show for it in my career. Since I was in third grade, I wanted to be a working writer and for the first time I’ve started to lose hope in myself, started to question if it’ll ever happen. And it’s stupid. There’s millions of authors that didn’t publish their first work until after thirty. And the truth is, as long as I’m living, I’m gonna keep trying. I don’t want to die with this music in me either.
When Stacy began to sing, I and everyone in that auditorium was rooting for her. She was someone who’d given up on herself, she’d stopped believing, and from the roaring standing ovation and the reaction from the judges’ panel, she finally heard the words she needed for so long to hear. That she is good enough, that she is talented enough, that this dream in her heart is there for a reason. Simon Cowell grins and tells her, “I’ve done this a long, long time. That was one of the best auditions that I’ve ever heard. You did more than sing it, you believed in it. Loved it, loved it, love you…” Simon looks back at the crowd of cheering fans behind him and with the wave of his hand says, “Four thousand three hundred and four yes’s.”
As she walks off stage to embrace her family, through heart wrenching tears, she says, “Oh my god, Stephanie, oh my god, girl. I didn’t expect him to say all that.” “Well, why wouldn’t he?” “I just didn’t know if he was gonna see it. I didn’t know if he was gonna see it.”
It might have taken her 42 years to get there but today she was seen.