Aging is not easy but neither is being young. The challenges for each are completely different, but they are both challenging. I remember my mid to late teens and at least through my twenties feeling so unsure of myself, so self conscious, so worried about what people were thinking of me. To hide that vulnerability, I built a façade of a strong, confident young woman that I hid behind and in retrospect kinda seems to have worked. Fake it till you make it, I guess. I wonder, though, how many older people saw right through that disguise as I can see through it in young people I encounter today. It seems like the tougher the outside package, the mushier the inside reality.
I’m 57 and there are things I like about getting older. Wrinkles, achy joints and lose skin are not some of them.
I love not being self-conscious. What you think of me is none of my business. I’m very comfortable in my own skin and I don’t second-guess myself anymore. When I see an injustice directed at me, someone else or an animal, I step in without hesitation. I (usually) do it with tact and caution but I’ve seen so much of it in my life and I have a very low tolerance for it.
I love that women, now that we are older, tend to connect instead of compete. I’m not sure if that is because my attitude has changed or that all of us aging gals have changed, probably the latter, but it’s huge.
I love being at a place where I do not have to wake to an alarm. Ever.
I love the harmless flirting during mixed doubles at pickle-ball. Most of us have been married forever and it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s just fun and funny.
A couple years ago I decided that one of my jobs as an aging person is to help, whenever I can, a young person to feel really good about themselves. For example, a young man, early twenties with mild special needs who was a bagger at the grocery store was one day working as a checker.
“You got a promotion!” I said excitedly.
“I did!” he said proudly.
“That is so awesome! I don’t even know you but I am so proud of you!” I replied.
His wide smile, flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes said it all. I’d done my job.
Another time I was at the zoo and as I was passing the lions at some distance I noticed a group of oh so cool young people taunting them. If people at the zoo litter, I pick it up and throw it away. If they smoke, which they are not supposed to, I look the other way. If they taunt animals, it falls into the “injustice” category and I step in assertively with no hesitation. I made a beeline for the oh so cools but before I got to them a young, sort of nerdy guy approached the group and I could see that he was shaking slightly. He was scared.
“It’s super uncool what you are doing to the lions,” the young man said.
“Oh really?” one of the oh so’s said, “How would you know what’s uncool?”
“It’s cruel,” the twenty something said, still shaking.
“Yeah?” a young woman said. “What are you going to do about it?”
“He already did something about it!” I said loudly as I approached. “He’s educating you people who should know better what’s cruel! Move away from the lions now and if you taunt any other animals at this zoo, I will have you thrown out.” They skittered away.
I turned to the brave young man and said quietly, “What you just did took a ton of courage and I don’t even know you but I am very, very proud of you. Animals need strong, brave people like you and I thank you and the lions thank you.”
“Well, I love lions,” the young man said, “and I can tell you do too.” And then he hugged me. It took my breath away. I was not successful in suppressing my tears as I made my way back to my gorillas.
Nothing is ever cut and dry, is it? Things in life are complicated. I wish I could have a chance to make the oh so’s feel better about themselves because cruelty to animals is a clear indication of not feeling very good about ones self. Surely, I’ll never see them again.
Still, every day, I try hard to do my job.