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I Turned 50. Let's Talk About It: Asking a Woman Her Age

Manual Labor's CEO & Founder, Samantha Choi-Cadley reflects on what it's meant for her to turn 50.

Samantha Choi Cadley

CEO & Chief Creative Officer

August 24, 2022

When we’re kids, we’re so excited to get older—we brag about our age, even lie about it! When I turned 16, I felt so independent in our Dodge Colt, driving alone for the first time. Then at some point, aging quickly becomes a taboo, especially for women. I flashed my ID proudly when I walked into a bar at 21, but when I was unmarried and not even 30 yet, the unspoken question became: why not and when? 

Now that I’ve turned 50, it’s a very different set of emotions.  

I’m from a culture that places a higher importance on the wisdom of experience. When my grandma moved in with us in the 4th grade, we revered her. Encouraged by our parents, we took the opportunity to learn as much from her as possible. Making it to 50 (or 60 or 90 or even 30) is an accomplishment, not a failure.

We’re overly willing as a society to discard, ignore, or even pity women after a certain age. Think of how we say: 

“Never ask a man his salary or a woman her age.”

The system’s rigged, of course: a woman’s worth only ever decreases. A man’s salary increases with age; they get adjectives like “distinguished” or “stately.” A woman is seen as less desirable, less capable, less intelligent, and has to worry about being labeled “bossy” or “bitchy” simply for asserting herself.

50 should be a celebration—every birthday and every day should be celebrated! In reconnecting with many friends this year (if virtually) I began to think about the learnings and life hacks that have actually stuck with me and remained important.  

Listen deeply and with intention. 

When I was 25, I talked a lot. I thought if I wasn’t talking, things weren’t happening. I’ve learned now that the core skill in my toolbox is listening. Active listening allowed me to solve more problems for more people and brands than any monologuing. Clients aren’t paying us to talk—in fact, they’re looking for the understanding that comes from real listening.  

Learn to sit comfortably in uncomfortable situations

Early adulthood is fundamentally awkward. Most of us are still figuring out who we are versus who we think we want to be. As an entrepreneur, I learned that life is a series of uncomfortable experiences—if you’re doing it right—because that means we’re growing out of our shell.The sooner you can learn to sit comfortably even when you are uncomfortable, the sooner you can get to enjoying and learning from the most interesting situations in life. 

Find things that make you smile. 

A little something happy every day, at least once a day, is essential. For me, it’s dessert. Whether it’s the chocolate bark from Samuel’s Sweet Shop, Trader Joe’s Chocolate-covered Almonds, or a scoop of Americone Dream (shout out to Ben & Jerry’s for so many reasons). Do something for yourself that isn’t in the How to be Healthy handbook.

When in doubt, move slowly. 

A younger version of me thought being indecisive was a death sentence that signaled insecurity and unintelligence. Turns out consideration and thoughtfulness are crucial, especially for important decisions. Modern life is increasingly fast-paced—so while we may need to move fast, decide slowly. That’s been an important lesson: decisions take time and thoughtfulness, and we should never skimp on either. 

Invest in a good facial moisturizer. 

My mom always said it and it’s true. This isn’t for vanity, well, sort of... Feeling good in your skin is part of our complete physical, mental, and spiritual health. With all the time we spend on Zoom, we’d all benefit from knowing we’re doing something good for our skin. SK II SKINPOWER is worth it — or anything with Vitamin E.

Aging is natural. Some things, like the fact that I need reading glasses suck but it’s also beautiful when owned and you stumble upon brands like Mohala Eyewear. Look good and do good?! And if Jenny from the Block was proud at 50 on that Super Bowl stage, we should all be too. She’s kicking off a whole new phase of her career now, like Julie Wainwright who founded TheRealReal at 54, or Michelle Yeoh who starred in A24’s highest-grossing movie, Everything Everywhere All At Once at 60. 

We need to come around to celebrating the 50 Over 50 as much as the 30 Under 30 — and we need to stop viewing aging as anything but the beautiful, educative, natural process it is. We are just getting started, so stretch, moisturize, and get ready to age with attitude and empowerment. You should see Mama Choi at 80.

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