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What Time Has Told: 50s, Gillian Horton

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These days, we know age is no barrier to experience and youth is no barrier to wisdom.

For our latest HerCanberra Magazine: Time, we asked eight women across eight decades what life has taught them.

Gillian Horton

Gillian grew up in Scotland and ventured to Australia in her twenties. Newly arrived in Canberra 12 years ago, Gillian was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy.

She now uses her own experience as owner of Colleen’s Lingerie and Swimwear to help women find their “new normal”, showing the many choices available in lingerie and breast forms as well as sharing her story to encourage and give hope.

What was your toughest decade?

I would have to say my forties. I was a single mum of a seven-year-old, working full-time, trying to juggle all the demands of a parent and making ends meet. I felt exhausted pretty much all of the time.

I remarried and became an instant step-mum when my husband’s two children lost their mother in a car accident. I was now mother to three children. I gave up full-time work and worked three days a week so that I could spend more time with them.

In my late forties, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The hardest thing was telling all three teenagers, especially since two had already lost their mother.

You do what you have to do to get through treatment, sometimes putting on a brave face for everyone and at other times crying your eyes out in private.

Returning to work, nothing was the same, I couldn’t cope especially as I had developed anxiety and insomnia. I couldn’t wait to turn 50!

What is your favourite thing about being the age you are?

Having so much hindsight and life experience I’ve learnt that a decision is just that, there is no right or wrong. This makes

decisions quicker and keeps
me moving forward instead of procrastinating and wasting so much time as I have in the past. It also stops me from questioning if I’ve made the right decision!

What age would you go back to for a day if you could?

Twenty-years-old, the day before I started drinking alcohol. I’d tell myself that alcohol doesn’t solve my problems, it gives you a horrendous hangover, you don’t need to drink to have fun, it changes your judgement so that decisions you wouldn’t normally make are made to your detriment, being drunk can put you in dangerous or risky situations, and there’s never a toilet around when you need to vomit.

What advice would you give to today’s teens?

You are worthy and lovable just as you are.

We were not born hating our bodies, we remember the negative things that are said by those around us—social media, commentators’ and other’s attitudes—which paint a very untrue picture of ourselves in our minds. So much so that we don’t love ourselves and worry about what others think of us.

Real connection starts by putting away your phones, talking face-to-face and actually listening to the other person.

What a difference it would make to so many lives if all we heard and all we said were positive words—and that starts with you.

50 is the new 40—discuss

As a teenager, I thought anyone over 20 was old, and so 50 was really ancient! Now 50 is very young to me!

Women had children in their late teens or early twenties so 40 was the age your children left home and you became empty nesters.  With that came freedom from parental duties (although you never stop being a parent) and not only doing the things you want to do, but about finding out who you are when you’re not defined as a parent.

Turning 40 was the decade to explore new possibilities, travel, downsize, make changes and as income was no longer needed for your children there was more disposable income.

Now women are having children later in life and they’re staying with their parents longer, so empty nesters are now in their fifties. So, 50 is the new 40!


This article originally appeared in Magazine: Time (AW2020), available to read free online.

Read it here.

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