“’It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’” —Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
My last birthday brought me into my late-thirties.
I’m almost forty. And I know my forties are going to ROCK.
Why do people miss their younger days? Being a little kid was pretty fun, I’ll admit, but I had no freedom. My teenage years not only had no freedom, but I also had adolescence to deal with. The exciting part was that I had all this blank future in front of me, but the scary part was having a lot of blank future in front of me, and very little accumulated wisdom to help me deal with it. In my twenties, I accomplished a lot to fill that blank future, but I rushed through all the moments, so in a hurry to achieve the next milestone that I didn’t fully enjoy the present.
In my thirties, I finally started to slow down, get to know myself, and assess what was really important to me in life. I’ve started—I still have a lot to learn.
As I approach ‘middle age,’ I am excited about my blank future. It has shrunk just enough to provide urgency, but that urgency comes with more perspective. Now, I can actually deal with it.
We tend to obsess over what we lose as we age. We lose youthful beauty, time, possibility, and sometimes, we lose respect from members of our society. But what do we gain? We may lose youthful, easy beauty, but we gain confidence. We may lose time and possibilities, but we gain urgency and focus. We may lose respect from some corners, but we gain resourcefulness and empathy and we are better equipped to deal with obstacles with grace.
Most of all, we gain self-knowledge. If we do this right, we grow more and more into a full expression of ourselves. We learn how to align our lives with what matters to us.
Living a full expression of your self makes you feel more alive. It’s weird, though, how hard it is to get to know yourself—you’d think that knowing yourself would be natural, but there are so many darn distractions in the world. Alignment takes time. So, being yourself gets easier as you get older, after you’ve gained some perspective and experience.
How’s THAT for helping you to look forward to your next birthday?
“I know that only by owning who and what you are can you start to step into the fullness of life. Every year should teach you something valuable; whether you get the lesson is up to you. Every year brings you closer to expressing your whole and healed self. “ – Oprah, O, the Oprah Magazine, May 2011
Try looking at your life without the numbers.
Think about who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve learned, and where you could go. But take away those damn numbers. No ages allowed. (Or BMIs, or bank balances, for that matter.)
I’ve realized that it is ONLY when I attach numbers to my life that I start to get anxious about the passage of time.
When I separate my self from the calendar, I begin to feel comfortable with my story; I don’t question how long it took me to get here and I anticipate shaping how it ends—however long a story I am granted.
I anticipate growing into myself more each year.
The older I get, the more I grow into myself, and the better I get. I know they say that past results are no guarantee of future returns, but why shouldn’t I assume that I will continue to get even more amazing as I get older? I’m truly looking forward to the next decade of my life and the woman I will become—but don’t worry, I’m not in a rush anymore.
If my thirties were so much better than my twenties and my forties are going to be even better, then I’m going to be a great old lady—I’m going to be sassier, smarter, and sexier than ever—whenever I actually start to get old.
Image courtesy of profivideos.