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When I Became Invisible

April Ibarra

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The first time I knew I had become invisible was at a bar in Las Vegas. I was in town on business, wrapping up a convention and passing time before my red eye. Why I ever thought flying out at midnight was a good idea, escapes me.

Regardless, I had five hours before my flight and I was determined to have a great meal. Food has always been my reward and I wondered how I had escaped eating disorders; I seemed like a textbook case. I was obsessed with weight, (it’s always been a struggle) addicted to exercise, (it could be worse) and passionate about cheese, carbs, and vodka.

It was Friday night at Caesars Palace and I was roaming the Forum Shops and the crowds were rowdy. Party towns like Vegas and New Orleans are never fun when you’re on business travel even though we post on social media like it’s a blast. I had stalked my way into a bar seat at Carmine’s and it looked promising.

My waiter finally arrived and I was ordering my vodka when I finally noticed the menu was family style Italian. Crowds around me were enjoying big platters of all my favorites covered in sauce and cheese, but not in my size. I could smell garlic and satisfaction but I couldn’t justify spending that much money (even on an expense account) and leaving half behind. I reluctantly moved on.

This was a game I was familiar with. Back in the day, before the pandemic, I traveled 80% of the time. I would spend each day carefully and obsessively considering my food options. I was anxious to make a good decision. Yelp was my friend as I searched for the perfect spot. I loved Triple D style or high-end steak house for icy cosmos and happy hour food.

I could spin these options in my head for hours, and most times I did. Occasionally I would need to remind myself to get a grip. “April, this is not your last meal, relax and make a decision.” I loved the hunt and finding the perfect spot for a bite and a sip is something I still take very seriously. Ask anyone who knows me!

At this point I was bordering on insanity when I finally gave myself an ultimatum. “Pick a place, any place, and shut the hell up”. Maybe I was a bit harsh with my inner voice, but sometimes I needed that. So I found one seat in the bar at the Water Grill.

I was wedged between a lurky businessman and a couple who had their eye on my seat. I was never shy about claiming my spot so I settled in with confidence. I had been here before and it was good if you like seafood (not my favorite). And Sushi? I’d rather eat chalk and the smell was nauseating.

But I had been given an ultimatum so I settled in and waited patiently for eye contact with a bartender. I had a huge sushi bar blocking my physical contact so I couldn’t lean in and smile (my standard trick) so I relied on eye contact. I was one of many who were thirsty so I waited and waited. I sat for a really, really, long time when it finally dawned on me.

I was invisible.

I was an over fifty women in a bar, alone. My presence did not require an urgent response from anyone. There were couples, businessmen with expense accounts, hot girls, and hot guys all jockeying for attention.

The old chick lost.

Truthfully, I was already aware that my world had shifted. I was at the point in my life where no one was watching. The transition had been gradual (like menopause) but there were plenty of signs that something was lurking in the future. Something big, and unpleasant. It was middle age.

It made me wonder, was this a blessing or a curse? I’m sure for many it’s a curse and that’s why the midlife crisis is so famous and the script for many great movies like Crazy, Stupid Love, Thelma & Louise, and Bridges of Madison County.

It’s the beginning of the search and yearning for something lost, missing, or never found. It’s the fear of running out of time. The impact of middle age is different for everyone but let’s face it, the real issue is that our previous decades held more promise than the years that stand in front of us. At some point we all realize that life is growing shorter and it can make us do crazy things.

If we are lucky enough, we will all grow older. This transition in life is a flow from one decade to the other. We move forward, not back, and there are inevitable changes that go with each passing year. In our youth we study and learn (hopefully) to be an adult.

Then we marry, (for some of us more than once), maybe we have children, and we spend our days in a hectic haze of responsibilities and growth. Then as things slow, and children are raised and launched, we slow down a bit.

That’s when we begin to take inventory of our life. Life pauses just long enough for us to realize that half of our life is gone.

A wise woman would take the opportunity that growing older offers and use it to her advantage instead of regretting that her youth is gone. What if we accepted that there is magic in our ability to disappear from the watchful eye of others and let go of our need to prove ourselves to everyone?

Who cares if I prefer to go to be at ten o’clock so I’m ready for yoga on Saturday mornings? Does dinner at six o’clock with friends tase different than dinner at eight o’clock? What do we have to prove?

What if we choose to lead the rest of our life in a way that reflects who we are on the inside, without deep concern about what other’s think. Accepting where we are in life at this moment is our chance to cut ties with things, and people that haven’t been working for decades. If not now, when?

We can try something new without worrying about failing (who cares but us?) we can be selfless and adventurous, take up improv and dye our hair pink. We can choose to abandon the fear of what will others think. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter to me if I am invisible to others. I’m still here, and I matter to me. I have people in my life that I can be real with and I choose quality, over quantity. I don’t need approval from the world to exist.

You may not notice me, but if you get to know me you will never forget my brilliant spirit and feisty humor. If you speak to me, you will appreciate my kindness and generosity. You may notice my confidence in how I present myself to the world and wonder what my secret is. If you ask me, I will tell you.

Be who you are and enjoy the ride because everyday matters, not just the few years when you were young. You have nothing left to prove to the world and now is the time to focus on just being who you are.

I call that freedom, and freedom is fun.

Benjamin Hotel
Benjamin Hotel

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

April Ibarra

April Ibarra is a Gerontologist and fierce advocate for aging well.

She has over twenty five years of health care experience and has learned the value of life through her love for aging adults and realization that life is short. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband Pablo, who has shown her that it is never too late for dreams to come true.