May 24, 2016

An Open Letter to All 20-Somethings in Fear of Aging

Just'll be okay.
As I read the "Open Letter to Women in Their Mid-20s" written by a 23 year old woman fearing her life will never change, I felt empathy and compassion mixed with a bit of excitement. While I empathize with the fear many 20-somethings are struggling with I'm also excited to report that aging doesn't suck as much as you may think it does.

Unfortunately the lessons that are the most valuable to learn are the ones that come over time (and, in my opinion, this is why it is so sad that our society values youth over age).  We won't learn how to overcome adversity until we experience life's low points. We won't understand how strong we are until we have come out on the other side of a shitty life experience. We don't know contentment until we have experienced sadness, worry, fear, and loss. From where I am standing (yes, standing ...not rocking back and forth in a fetal position in a corner somewhere) at 48, things look a lot different.  If I could offer you a few bits of knowledge from my own experience it would look like this.

Try your best to listen to your gut and do what is in YOUR best interest early on. Getting married and having kids NEVER promises you happiness.  In fact, so many of us who get married early on and punch out the babies soon after, find ourselves divorcing and a single parent before our 30th birthday. No matter how strong the love is in the beginning, things can change. Those married friends of yours may be happy now...but there's no guarantee for their future.  Comparing yourself to those happy people who have found love is futile and based upon nothing but our fears of being single for the rest of our lives.

Avoiding falling prey to the idea of beauty.  Those who identify with their beauty have a high rate of depression once this beauty starts to fade.  Although we see the effects of pickling within the celebrity population, this is not the reality of aging.  One cannot be smooth of skin and tight of tummy at 50 (especially after kids).  Focus on your intrinsic skills, talents, and abilities.  Learn something, do good for others, be kind to animals, focus on being a good person (beautiful or not). Beauty doesn't matter. It only matters to those that have nothing else to fall back on.

Avoid social comparisons at all cost (and if you must, compare yourself with those that have less).  The secret to a happy life (in my aged opinion) is cultivating a healthy level of gratitude for what we have (instead of lamenting on what we don't). Instead of getting down because we lack the high profile job, the hefty bank account, or the new car, remember that not having the latest iPhone or handbag is a 1st world problem (rather than having no food on the table or bed to sleep in). Most of the world is struggling with adequate shelter, safety, and food security; not having Wi-Fi isn't so bad. 

The sooner you become more positive about aging, the better.  After saying this, I can honestly say I wasn't comfortable about it until I hit around 45 -46.  There is something magical that happens in your 40's.  I don't know if it is nature's way of calming you (or sedating you) as you transitioned into the 50s or if it is wisdom that comes with age, but if you are able to "let it all go", aging can become more of a blessing instead of a curse.  The trick is letting go of the image of your younger self, the grief that may come when we notice the first jowl or sag.  By fighting the process of aging we are only making it harder on ourselves to age.  Kinda like flies on flypaper; the more they struggle the stucker they get.  DO NOT fall prey to the beliefs that fashion is age specific. Check out this blog on "Advanced Style" if you want to see concrete examples of beauty and fashion (these women are my mentors). 

Focus on health promotion now.  Quit smoking, start walking, practice sleep (i.e. getting the necessary amount), focus on mental resiliency and stress management, wear your safety gear, learn how to communicate well, understand who you are and what you want, increase your self worth, chose your partners wisely, unpack your emotional baggage when necessary, learn from mistakes, stretch, do not over exercise or limit yourself to vegetables, focus on contentment rather than happiness, feel your feelings rather than avoid them, listen to your gut, know when to end toxic relationships, learn to love yourself, invite love into your life, and never believe that you'll find happiness ten pounds lighter or when you find the perfect mate...happiness never comes when we tie conditions onto it.
Full disclosure: Black and white
pics don't show as many wrinkles.
I may not fear aging, but I'm going
to do what I can to keep what I've
got! If that means looking up at the
camera, so be it!

...and if nothing else makes you feel better, just remember this...if we aren't aging we are dead.

That's all I got.


1 comment:

  1. A very well-said post Kathi! I am approaching my mid 40's as well and agree that some wisdom is bestowed upon us that helps us armor up against the insecurity and uncertainty of our youth.
    Thanks for sharing your insights!