I dreaded turning forty and the unofficial entrance into “middle age.” I think I started worrying about it around thirty-seven and remember going to bed on my thirty-ninth birthday vowing to take advantage of the next three hundred and sixty five days of my thirties. I’m not sure I really did. Honestly, there is only so much “taking advantage” one can do when they work a full-time job, have professional and personal responsibilities, and the days just go by so fast. I lived the year as best as I could. I enjoyed the good times, got through the bad ones, had fun, worked hard, traveled, paid my bills, blah, blah, blah. I handled my fortieth birthday well, but I will admit to anyone who asks that it was mainly because I was dating someone and hoped he would be “The One.” My biggest fear was turning forty and being unattached romantically. Kind of shallow, I know. But it is what it is and I’m grateful for the timing of that relationship :).
It’s been a few years and I still struggle with aging often. A lot of it is because of how media makes women “of a certain age” feel irrelevant. I don’t want to feel that way, but I’m easily swayed, at least if I’m already feeling down about something. At the same time, I’m beginning to accept the whole “middle age” thing. I’m certainly at the beginning of it so that’s good, right? And, really, all it means to be “middle aged” is to not be “young” and not be “old.”
I’m even able to embrace some aspects of “middle age.” Sure, I have to go to more doctors for prevention than I used to, cover my greys more often than I did a decade ago, if I didn’t exercise regularly, it’s quite possible my slowing metabolism would not bode well for my stomach and thighs, and there is a group of men out there who might not consider me good on paper merely because of the year I was born (even men born five years earlier than me). But I’m not yet at the age where I need to get a colonoscopy (cheers!), I’m not even close to being fully grey, I don’t have many wrinkles yet, my shape is more or less the same as it was in my thirties, and any man who will only date younger women or who would dismiss me based on being over 40 is not a man I would want anyway.
I also see the world in a different way than I did in my twenties and thirties.
Because I’m “middle aged” and not “young,” I’m able to appreciate how I look now knowing I’m going to keep changing. Even ten years ago, I’d probably take it for granted.
I’m also able to understand that if a man wouldn’t “swipe right” solely based on my age, it’s about his ego and I don’t let it shatter my own. I’m not so sure I’d have been so strong in this conviction even a few years ago.
Because I’m “middle aged” instead of “young,” I’ve been around long enough to make mistakes, to recognize that they were mistakes, and to acknowledge that they were my fault. Although looking back often makes me want to turn back time and get a do-over (it really does), it also helps me from making the same mistakes in the future. I hope I get the opportunity to use these lessons while I’m still middle aged and not old.
Because I’m “middle aged” and not “young,” I’ve seen a lot of people get sick and die. I hate this fact of getting older, but it also keeps me from taking the people in this world I love for granted.
Rather than look back and lament the ending of my “youth,” why not appreciate all the things I can still do now that I might not be able to do when I’m “old?” For example, today I run upwards of twenty miles a week. Who knows if I’ll be able to do this in a couple of decades? I hold down a full-time job and just signed a seven-book publishing deal because my brain is intact and I’m healthy. This can change at any minute and I’m “middle” enough to know that. Today, I can go out with my girlfriends and still get hit on by men (“boys”) in their twenties. I doubt this will happen when I’m in my seventies. God willing, I still have plenty of life in me and opportunities coming my way to make my life a great one.
A big pet peeve of mine of late is when people in my age group refer to themselves (and me by association) as “old.” We’re not old. We’re in the middle! And it’s a pretty great place to be. Let’s enjoy it before we’re old!