Birthday thoughts: Dwelling on being another year older
On embracing age and practicing being more present
It was my birthday yesterday. I'm not a birthday extrovert, but I do think a lot about completing another year and what that means, especially since I turned 40 two years ago and officially entered 'mid-life' (no crisis yet!).
What did I achieve last year? What do I want to achieve this year? Where do I see myself three years from now? What example do I want to set for my kids as they grow up and understand more about us and the world around them?
My 4-year old daughter has already started asking me existential questions like: Mamma, why do you work? Do you love your work? What will happen if you don't work? Can you always work from home so that you can pick me up from school everyday? And comments like 'Mamma, you are always working, can you stop and play with me please?’ ‘Mamma, can you do a rolly-polly? Can we go to the same gymnastics class?”
And then begins a mental tug of war between pausing to be present and hurriedly wanting to do so much more.
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I never used to care about time and my age. Now, as the years pass, the clock ticks louder in my head and getting older takes a good amount of my mind space, not in a bad way though. I feel great in general, more confident, stronger mentally and physically, and definitely do not feel old anyway. I suppose I am just more aware of getting older than I ever have been.
As I think a lot about getting older, I must’ve manifested finding the Oldster newsletter, a publication that reflects on aging at every stage of life, that I thoroughly enjoy. I often look at profiles of aging celebrities to learn from them (like Salma Hayek, JLo, Elsa Pataky, Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston) however what you read in Oldster is far more real, relatable and insightful.
“Aging has given me more grace, more wisdom, more serenity. Thank God on all. It has taken away from me a sense of endless possibility.”
There is so much beauty in this sentence as there is harshness in the realization that life can no longer offer her endless possibilities.
“Obviously, aging takes away possibilities. The runway is too short for me to become a neurosurgeon or a sculptor or a rock star. On the other hand, I’ve gained confidence in my chosen vocation, gained trust in my close relationships, realized that fewer possibilities give me laser focus on what is actual. That’s enormously freeing in the way that constraint sometimes is,” writes 66-year-old novelist Stephani Gangi addressing the same idea of narrowing possibilities.
51-year old Madhushree Ghosh addresses something I am often told since I turned 40:
"The concept of “40 is the new 25” or whatever the latest slogan is, is actually pretty harmful. We have been using age, especially “young” age, as a fast-disappearing commodity."
I never thought of it this way, but she does have a point – 40 cannot be the new 20 and it does sound ridiculous when you think about it deeply.
72-year old author Catherine Texier says in one of my favourite (long though wonderful!) interviews:
“Now, paradoxically, I feel younger, more vibrant and in better shape physically and emotionally than I did at 60, or even at 50. So, is that all a question of perspective?”
Ah 100%, no?
Then she talks about aging gracefully:
“In my early 70s, I am aging naturally, except I still dye my hair. But I am obsessed with women who let their hair go grey and I follow them on Instagram.”
This made me laugh out loud; I am exactly the same at 42. Greying is the only thing that I’m struggling with at the moment as I get older. (I guess that makes me pretty lucky!)
And then you have this 50-year-old skateboarder who started skateboarding after becoming a mum and getting a PhD at 41:
“I hope I skate forever, even in paradise. On earth, turn my tombstone and grave into a ledge and pole jam others can skate when I’m gone."
Watch the video of her below, not an old bone in her!
In summary, we should be grateful we “get to” get older. We must embrace it and make the most of every year we are given. Obvious, but I often need reminders.
Making the most of it does not necessarily mean doing a million things (talking to myself here). Our kids can take from us the baton of endless possibilities. What it does include is being more present, and being more grateful. Perhaps that is all that matters?
How do you feel about getting older? Hit reply or leave a comment, would love to hear from you.