Several years ago, I saw a PostSecret that read: “I am more afraid of aging than I am of dying.” It gave me pause at the time. A couple years ago, it began to define me.
I look young, and I used to hate it. In junior high, when girls and boys went to dances and started “dating” and paired up at parties, I was often mistaken for a 9-year-old. After undergrad, customers at work would ask me, “Why aren’t you in school, sweetie?” When shopping, I was followed or ignored. At job interviews, managers squinted at my CV, trying to glean an approximate age from the dates attached to my education. These days, though, I enjoy it. The more I think about it, though, the more it makes me unhappy.
Why am I so attached to looking young? Is it really vanity, or is it the simple fact that as long as I look young on the outside and feel young on the inside, I can pretend that I am not slowly getting closer to my last days in this existence?
This past year has been one revelation after another. Someone urged me to choose one job over another, because I will soon be 35 and the “lack of insurance would be a disaster” after that age. I have begun to notice that diet scams love to tell us that we will all be fat, sick, and hormonally wrecked “after 35.” Somehow, I became subscribed to magazines targeted to women in their 40s and 50s (I have another six years, thank you very much.) I have become intimate with several skincare and anti-aging products and procedures (and I’m not ashamed of it at all). I made plans to do things (get an internship, move in with a partner, get another tattoo) that people just seem to equate with “being in their 20s.) And I still practice yoga every day, still look in that yoga room mirror every day, and think: “I could do better…but I don’t look old, and I don’t feel old.”
I find it funny that 20-somethings think that 30 is “old;” I remember being 21 and thinking, “Well, maybe I’ll give up working out so much when I’m 30 and things start to fall apart.” Oh, ha ha ha. Honestly, things are better now, I devote more time to myself (because I can, and realize that it is okay to do so), and I know more women nearly twice my age that exude radiance than I do ones who have “given up.” I wish I could have told my 20-something self to enjoy it all more, and I wish that my 20-something self had known that getting older is far from being an end.
We can work hard to look young, take care of ourselves in order to feel young, and even (if we really want to) pretend or fib about our ages. What we can’t do is erase the time and experiences we have had. So to all the 20-somethings out there: Don’t enjoy your time now because you think it will all end; enjoy it because this is all contributing to who you will be in the next several decades. Don’t shortchange yourself.
To 30-something me: the same advice. To 40-somethings: the same advice. To 50-somethings: I’ll say it again. 60-somethings: you get the idea. 70-somethings: again. 80-somethings, 90-somethings, 100-somethings: the same. And namaste to you.