I have had to admit to myself as a baby boomer that I have reached the stage of my life and the phase of my career where I am a silverback. In their natural habitat, silverback gorillas are the alpha group leaders. They each typically lead a band of five to 30 other gorillas and play a variety of roles in the day-to-day life of the troop. They are the decision makers, they mediate conflicts, they determine the movement of the group, and they serve as the protectors of the members of their troop.
Lately, I have been reflecting on my work ethic. At 64, I don’t seem to have the drive that I did when I was younger. As I look back on things I have done in my career, such as helping to found and eventually becoming the executive director of a residential school for troubled teens that kept me up until 2:00 a.m. most mornings, I know that I could never jump into that meat grinder again.
At this stage of my career, I don’t have the drive to work frenetically as I once did. I find myself being more contemplative and needing more quiet space to discern direction rather than making snap judgments. Thankfully, I still feel as mentally sharp as I always was, but my pace has changed. I am no longer addicted to adrenaline and, in fact, I am more measured in my approach to things.
Am I over the hill? No. Should I hang it up? No. The value that I bring to those around me as a psychotherapist, mediator and life coach is the quiet wisdom that comes from personally having gone through the school of hard knocks and from guiding many individuals and groups through life’s challenges as well. Where I once was a “mover and a shaker,” I now am a “motivator and an inspirer.”
The role of the silverback gorilla is to lead, to mediate conflicts, and to protect. Whether we are male or female, those characteristics seem pertinent to our species at this stage of life as well. I acknowledge my value even though my work style has changed. And perhaps there’s poetry in the fact that what hair I have left is silver indeed.