In a few weeks time, I will reach the next decade of my life. Age is an interesting phenomenon. Some say you are only as old as you feel. Others say they wish they could relive their youth and try in so many ways to recreate it. Still others state that with age comes wisdom and that transcends any desire to be young and wild again. From my perspective, the jury is still out.
The one true thing about age is that you cannot stop it. The Byrds made famous the definitive song of the circle of life called “Turn, Turn, Turn”. Written by Pete Seeger who quoted The Book of Ecclesiastes when he wrote that all phases in life were considered a season, the song tells us there is a time for all things including aging. It’s not that I am anxious about reaching this milestone. In fact after the past decades facing illnesses and other factors threatening a long life, reaching this milestone is a cause for celebration. But I think that everyone needs to decide what aging means for them on their life’s journey.
It is a comfort to watch my peers over this past year reach the age I will reach in a few weeks and see how their lives are being lived. There is much vibrancy. There are new careers, lots of travel, creativity that is blossoming. There are also backaches that take a while to recover from, creaky knees and thick chin hairs that are only in vogue during Halloween. Without hair dye, my hair color would rival Cruella deVille’s. I can still dance the night away but it takes me a couple of days to get back to normal. I need glasses to read. Gravity is taking its toll.
It’s also unnerving to watch the never-ending commercials on TV about the various drugs available that supposedly can help my quality of life. The same commercial states the drug can also kill me. The expression “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” does not apply to pharmaceuticals. I want to make up my own mind about what I need to do to keep the quality of my life vibrant.
It’s unfortunate to live in a culture where age is not celebrated. Or at least not celebrated for women. An aging man can wear his silver hair and his life experiences can be envied. “Stay thirsty, my friend” says the aging mythical most interesting man in the world. And yet there are also women who defy age in their beauty and zest for life. Helen Mirren comes to mind. When I turned 30, a friend asked if I was feeling anxious about my age (yes, at 30!) I told her no because all of my role models were in their 60’s and 70’s and I had a long way to go.
It can be a trap at this age to only look back at the path that has gotten us here, has molded us and made us who we are today. But we can’t stay there. We shouldn’t stay there because it is no longer where life is.
Instead we look ahead. I am at a crossroads now. I am at the place where the signs say “Past” and “Future”. Turn, turn, turn. Maybe now is when I am supposed to feel grown up. Maybe this is the time to put away my childish things. Or maybe not. The decisions I have made up to now got me to this point. That’s not a bad thing. That’s a thing to celebrate.
I feel fortunate that I have young people in my life who confide in me as a friend and colleague, not even thinking that I might be old enough to be their mother and sometimes older. They don’t think about my age and that is a blessing. I am happy with how I look and feel. Age is a badge of courage. All great warriors have scars and I bear mine proudly.
I am still unsure of how to celebrate this milestone in my life. But I have to believe that all night dancing will be involved. And family and friends. And champagne. I’m not too worried about that recovery time, though. I have two days set aside to take care of all that.