This is one of those topics that I have been tossing around in my head for a while now, and it's something that becomes a more pressing issue it seems with each passing day.
By definition, in fact.
The wonder about us humans is that we generally aren't very good at anticipating things. In our society especially, we tend to hang on to youth with a death grip. We don't want to accept that time is marching us forward. We pluck the gray hairs in defiance. We plunk down huge amounts of money on expensive creams. We make bizarre faces at ourselves in the mirror until the lines start to disappear, then somehow convince ourselves that these contorted expressions are good enough.
Good enough to satiate our denial for now, anyway.
We are getting older. We all are. It's part of that whole time/space continuum thing. Until and unless someone actually figures out how to manipulate it all, we're stuck here, getting a little bit older every day.
For a long time, we celebrate it. We still do with our kids, though the celebrations of their birthdays usually comes with a bittersweet taste to it because we've already figured out what they haven't yet - that you don't ever get to go backwards and someday you're going to get to the point where you'd give anything for a few moments of naive youth back.
Kids don't care yet. To them, another year older means milestones and achievements. It means more candles on a cake, more privileges, more freedom.
To us, it usually just means that we'll forget how old we are for a few months, that we'll have that blank lost expression when someone asks our age and we have to try and do math to figure it out. As if that isn't bad enough, some of those years that tick by mean that it's now officially time to make some appointment we've been dreading. The appointments that used to seem like they were so far off in the distant future, back when we were young and we thought that where we are now was old.
Except that we don't feel that way, not usually anyway. We still feel like we're in our 20s most of the time, at least most of us do. In some ways, we've actually improved as we've gained a few more years. With those years, at least for me, has come eye opening self awareness, a better understanding of what clothes, makeup, hairstyles look best on me. I've stopped trying to follow trends and fads, I do what suits my personality these days. I've embraced my nerd more, I've embraced the maxi dress, I've long ago conceded that I have to dye the gray hairs I used to pluck and now use my hair as another accessory, another way to express myself.
I'm more me now than I ever have been in my life.
This getting older thing isn't all bad, because it brings wisdom with it. We accept things about ourselves far easier than we used to.
We tolerate less, we become more outspoken. We hone our bullshit detectors and learn to start cutting toxic people out of our lives. We become more deliberate with our friendships. We stand up for ourselves. We're more confident, and we take no prisoners.
We're particular. We know what we like. We don't bother wasting our time or energy on cheap imitations anymore. Our tastes have evolved.
C'mon, seriously...all one needs to do is analyze their personal wine evolution. Mine went a little bit like this.
- Strawberry Hill
- Wine coolers
- White Zinfandel
- Reds. Only the reds.
....and now I've become allergic to the sulfites and can't even drink wine....
But it isn't all personal growth and epiphanies, this aging business.
We don't all ease into it gracefully. Some of us are actively in denial. Some of us don't just feel like we're still in our 20s, we act like it. We push our bodies to do things that they just aren't so good at anymore....and then we end up sitting in some orthopedist's office getting the at your age speech. If you've been in that chair nursing an injury, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
There are tremendous downsides to getting older, this much is true, and I won't even for one second pretend that they aren't real.
By the time you're our age, chances are that some of those fairytale weddings you attended have ended in nasty divorces. Maybe some are clinging to each other for dear life, but refusing to really fix the problems that led them to the end, and so they're just going through the motions now. We could have been one of those couples. We almost were.
By the time you're our age, you likely have friends who've lost a parent. Maybe you have friends who've already lost them both. Maybe you are the one wandering around the universe without your parents, as I am, often wondering when you ever got to be old enough that you should have to be in this place already. You don't feel like you're old enough to be parent-less, yet here you are, and in some ways you never really felt entirely grown up until now.
By the time you're our age, you probably already know people who've been diagnosed with cancer, with diabetes, with heart disease. We don't seem old enough to be in a place where we are visiting friends in the hospital (or are there ourselves), and yet here we are. We have to become more conscious of our health for the simple reason that it isn't optional anymore. The days of being clueless and irresponsible have to remain in the past if we want to keep going forward. It's a perspective changer, for sure.
By the time you're our age, perhaps you've already lost a friend. Maybe you found yourself gathered and teary and reminscent about someone that you shared parts of your life with who wasn't in the generation ahead of us or ahead of them anymore, but someone who was one of us. Maybe you've had to say goodbye to someone who was a cohort, a partner in crime, a buddy, a friend. There's little in this world that can shift your view on life more than seeing it end before we deem it should. Death truly is the great equalizer.
At our age, we have learned that time is as much an enemy as it is an ally. We know that nothing lasts forever. We know that things inevitably change, they always change. Perhaps this is why we get better at living in the moment, enjoying the little things in life, as we get a bit older. We learn to value the beauty of everyday more, we need the big moments less.
We start to tolerate the wrinkles more because they're part of a skin we're more comfortable in. We make the appointments we'd rather avoid because we've learned that we have to, that it's better to know than live obliviously. We slow down, but not too much, just enough to take the edge off in the hopes of avoiding injuries because we've learned the hard way that everything hurts more and longer now. We re-embrace naps and books and lazy afternoons.
Occasionally we dread getting older, but mostly we welcome it.
We start to understand what it means to live like we're dying, because we are. We all are.
It just took us this long to learn it.
...because you know...at our age...everything takes longer.
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