Be okay with getting older

Photo credit: Jennifer Buzanowski, U.S. Air Force

This is a subject I feel really strongly about, and I think it resonates with most people.

We’re all afraid – one way or another – of getting old. Of being older.

I’ve heard this lament so many times: Argh, I’m getting old!I feel old!I can’t believe I’m turning 30/40/50…!

And so on.

Trust me, I hear you. I am aware of my ageing now. I’m starting to see wrinkles, I get pains for no reason, I can’t go out and drink like I used to – and I definitely can’t deal with a hangover any more!

But I still don’t mind about getting older.

Why?

For a couple of reasons:

1. We are the youngest we will ever be.

Right now. As it stands right now. You will never be as young as you are now. You are YOUNG!

I don’t mean this in a negative, scary way!

What I mean is…

Your older self will look back at you, at the age you are now, and say: Thirty?! Geez! I had no idea what I was doing back then. I was so young and innocent! (Okay, maybe not innocent.)

Try having this conversation with your older (more mature) self. If you’re 33 (a great age, by the way!), have the conversation with your 43-year-old self. What would they say?

You as your 33-year-old self (i.e. now): Argh, I’m so old!

The 43-year-old you in response: Ah, you’ve got no idea. You’re a spring chicken! I would love to go back and be thirty-three again. Just enjoy it!

Does that make sense? No?! 🙂

Okay, well… let’s give it some context.

Think back to a time when you were younger and you said – and I’m sure you did this – that you were old. E.g.:

At 19: Ohmigod I can’t believe I’m 19! I’m so old

What would you say to that 19-year-old (or any 19-year old who says that)?!

Geez – you have no idea. You’re not old at all – now shut up!

Or

At 24: Ohmigod I’m so old! I can’t believe I’m turning 25 next year!

What would you say to the “you” at this age?

Oh god. Please shut up. 24 is not old.

Right? So now do the same – but with the age you are now.

You’re as young as you’ll ever be! So embrace how young you are!

Stop comparing down (i.e. to people younger than you), and start comparing UP!

I promise you it makes it better 🙂

And now for the next part…

2. I ask myself the “would you swop with…” question.

I read an article about four or five years ago about an upbeat, positive girl who had terminal breast cancer. She was 28 years old. I was about the same age as her, so maybe that’s why her story resonated with me so much.

She was determined not to let cancer affect her life. She hung out with her friends (sometimes at her hospital bed), she did the things she loved (whenever she could), and she was as positive as she could be. It made me feel pretty damn small.

A wake-up call

One thing I read in the article sent shivers down my spine, and made me question the way I saw things. What she said was:

I just really want to reach 30. That would be awesome.

It made me feel shitty. Here I was: healthy, independent, and living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. My friends around me were starting to turn thirty, and what were they all saying?

Argh, I really don’t want to turn thirty … I’m not ready for this! … I can’t believe I’m turning 30 – I feel so old!

(Well of course you do, it’s the oldest you’ve ever been!)

So while we were all moaning about turning thirty, and proclaiming how unfair it was, there was someone in a hospital bed, dying of cancer, who would have given anything to swop places with any of us (I’m pretty sure).

I don’t even know her name, but I made a promise to myself that I would do justice to this girl and her memory, and never moan about my age again.

I understand – it’s not easy.

Sure, I might moan about the challenges that come with ageing. And don’t get me wrong – I am as scared as the next person (maybe more) about ageing.

I don’t want to lose my looks, have my partner not find me attractive, become invisible… (Oh, did I tell you I am vain, by the way?!)

But I will deal with those things as they come up. If I’m positive, smiling and happy, I hope that my partner will still want to be around me. If I’m involved in awesome community projects, I don’t have to be invisible.

I feel that I owe it to that girl, to my live my life as fully as I can – because she could not.

(I realize that sounds a bit preachy… I’m sorry!)

But think about this…

If someone your age had a terminal illness… would you swop with them?

Don’t want to turn 54? (for example)

Would you rather swop with someone, also approaching 54, who had a terminal illness? (They’d probably be happy to have your life – so it would be an easy swop.)

No? Why not?!

You can use this example at any age. Any age. 26… 42… 65… 80, I guess!

My suggestion

Maybe we don’t like the age we are. But you can’t go back in time. Sorry! It’s just not possible. So let’s take a different tack.

What you can do is enjoy living your life now. Realise you’re as young as you’ll ever be. And celebrate every birthday or milestone (if you want). It’s proof of how far you’ve come, not how old you are. Every birthday is another success story – or another chance to start over – or change the direction you’re headed!

Final note

And to the girl in the hospital with cancer… please know that I am living my thirties, and grateful for them, and I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being such a positive and inspiring influence on my life 

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