because I’m “middle aged”

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!

Youth is wasted on the young

I had to attend a wake on Friday night. A close friend’s father passed away. At eighty, he wasn’t a young man but I don’t consider eighty very old anymore, probably since my parents are both in their early-mid-seventies. I’m sure my friend’s dad had much more living to do, and his family/friends were not ready to say goodbye. I know from recent experience that my friend has a long grieving period ahead of her and it breaks my heart. This post is not about the wake or the passing of my friend’s father, but I will get to my point soon—I promise. Between his five daughters, my friend’s father had many grandchildren—at least eight, maybe more—and they probably range in age from about fourteen to twenty-two. All were in attendance at the wake and I couldn’t help but observe them with more than a twinge of envy—not for the loss of their grandfather, obviously, but for their youth. All of the grandchildren were extremely respectful and supportive of their parents’ loss as they greeted mourners who came to pay their respects but I got the feeling that while they were saddened by the passing of their grandfather, they didn’t quite grasp the full-meaning of death. I get that, as I was there once. To most young people, death happens when people get “old” and is not something to be concerned about for a very long time. I was much younger when my grandfathers died and while I cried and missed them very much—I even imagined they lived on the clouds in the sky and could look down upon me—I didn’t give it much thought under the assumption that death is what happens when someone gets old. It never occurred to me that neither of them were very old yet or that my grandmothers’ lives would be irrevocably altered by their death and would grieve the loss for years (decades) to come. While at the wake, I looked at the many collages surrounding the room of photos of my friend’s parents when they were younger and when my friend and her sisters were really young. It made me so sad to think about how those same people who were once young and healthy and just beginning their lives came to be grandparents and how one had passed away and the other was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and probably had no idea her husband had died. And it scared me that the cycle of life happens to everyone and one day I, too, would be old with an entire life behind me. I know with almost certainty that those thoughts did not cross the grandchildren’s minds because I vividly remember being their age and never once worrying about things like that. My mom reminded me this weekend that I’m not “old” and I have a lot of great years ahead of me, but I’ve lived long enough to have regrets and to have made mistakes I cannot fix. The best I can do is learn from them and try not to make the same ones again. It made me wish to be seventeen again, with a clean slate and my entire adult life ahead of me. On a more superficial note, I also envied their shiny hair and plump smooth skin. Even though I look younger than my age, my skin does not compare to that of a teenager and I pay about $1000 a year to cover my gray hair! I hated being a teenager and it never occurred to me that one day I would look back on those years with yearning. I’m pretty certain the kids at the wake do not grasp that someday they will look like their parents and later their grandparents. I just hope that, unlike me, they know how beautiful they are and don’t waste too much time wishing they looked like someone else. I look back at old pictures of me and want to shake my younger self for not realizing how freakin adorable I was! I couldn’t locate my photo album with photos from high school but I found a few from my college/early twenties that I have posted here. I can’t go back. I’m not sure I’d want to go back—at least not that far—but I do hope to better appreciate this stage of my life —how I look, how I feel, and the opportunities available to me—so that I have less regrets ten years from now.

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-july-2015

no gray hairs to speak of!

no gray hairs to speak of!

check out my skinny legs :)

check out my skinny legs 🙂

not a care in the world

not a care in the world

plump, young skin...

plump, young skin…