When did you first realize you were aging? I know the exact moment it hit me. I was 27. I learned that year that the maximum age to try out for American Idol was 28. It offended me that even if I had a massive hidden talent I could soon be too old for it to even matter as a newcomer in the music industry. I have no musical talent to speak of, but if it was hidden somewhere in the recesses of my self I only had one more year to discover it. What else was out there that I would soon just be considered too old to do? It felt unfair. I grabbed a People magazine and googled the age of every celebrity pictured or mentioned and realized that most of these accomplished people were YOUNGER than me now. Remember when you were a kid and you could still fantasize about becoming famous when you grew up? I am already grown up and definitely NOT famous.
Then I really felt the aging process begin for the first time a few years ago. It was a normal day. A Tuesday, I believe. I went to bound up the stairs to my third floor walk-up apartment in Washington DC just like I had done hundreds of times. This time when my foot hit the second step, my ankle just completely gave out on me. No warning. No apology. No struggle. Straight up total joint failure. What’s worse is the fact that my ankle was in pain for MONTHS. I asked my doctor to take a look. Nothing was wrong. My ankle just missed roll call when it was time to show up and support the body.
While we are in our prime we can put our bodies through torture and be totally fine. We could drink late and get up the next morning with no problems instead of needing fluids and rest for 24 straight recovery hours. I, myself, have morphed into a champion day drinker. I can be done by 7:00 to give myself enough time to recover fully and face the demands of my kids in the morning. I popped out a kid with no muss no fuss at 25. When I did it again in my mid-thirties I spend that 9 months sure I was close to death every single day. I used to eat fast food without gaining an ounce. Now my doctor is talking to me about maintaining the right fiber content in my diet “as we age”. B**ch, Who’s AGING?! Yes, I took it as a personal offense. Yes, my knees hurt randomly and my joints pop and I go to bed at 9:00, but I don’t need some doctor who is clearly young and pretty calling me out on my AGING!
The most wretched thing of all is that now it takes MONTHS and YEARS to lose any weight or get back into shape after a period of shameful food behavior. It legitimately took me a month and a half to lose 3 lbs and yet it all came right back in one weekend of a diet break on vacation. That math doesn’t even add up! I didn’t inhale cheeseburgers and cupcakes all weekend, I swear! What sorcery has descended upon my life that this has happened to me?! As a good friend of mine once said, “F*ck Father Time and the horse he rode in on!”
Everything is different now. But maybe it’s time to mine out the good parts of getting older since I can’t stop the clock anyway. I’m going to have to because I’ve already had a third-life crisis when I realized at least third of my life is already over. Come on… A THIRD! That’s a LOT! And it went so fast! Now how can I turn this frown upside down and make the next two-thirds amazing despite the failing body parts and kale requirements? What do I do with the rest of my life? I don’t know that yet, but even though my stretch marks now look like a road map tattooed on the side of my ass, I’ve realized I’m in a better place mentally the older I get.
I’ve found I am more comfortable with who I am at this stage of my life. It’s going to take some time to accept some of the physical changes because truly that crap sucks, but who I really am is solid. I like her. No more angst of trying to sort out where I fit or why I don’t always like the things my peers do. I’m ok with the fact that I am often very different from my closest friends, and that’s amazing for me to finally get there because I spent a lot of my youth feeling like I never quite fit anywhere and trying to alter the round peg of myself into square holes. And the most beautiful revelation of all is that I found that my true friends never expected me to alter myself anyway. They know my taste in music is odd. They know I am not the most stylish person to shop with. They know I am not a social butterfly. I’m fine with it and so are they.
I’ve built my own life on my own terms. Of course I have to consider other people. Of course I have to make compromises for the people I love sometimes, but those compromises are things I can live with rather than actions I am taking merely out of guilt or the fear of someone being mad at me. I don’t do anything merely because someone else wants me to and I feel no guilt about that anymore. I’ve adopted a quote from the HBO series “Girls” as one of my personal favorite mantras. “It’s really liberating to say no to sh*t you hate.” Sometimes when you’re young or too reliant upon other people for basic needs there’s a quid pro quo. I’m so thankful I have worked to get to a level of self-reliance emotionally and financially where I don’t owe people things I am not willing to give. It feels amazing!
I now have the ability of hindsight. Getting older means I keep living through the muck that life sometimes throws your way. It gets easier to clean up the muck and keep it moving when you’ve seen it before and now know what stain removers work best. I’ve made a lot of messes throughout my youth but those mistakes are my own. I have learned so much from them that it makes me feel like I can handle practically anything. This is not a dare for life to come crashing down on me to prove it, but life’s hiccups are a lot less devastating than they once were.
My kids will grow up. Yes, right now I am writing after a night of limited sleep because the baby’s allergies keep her up at night but, when they are no longer in my house every day I will miss them. I will be left with the amazing memories of first steps and funny stories and snuggle times and I’ll probably look back and laugh at the things that piss me off today. And when those moments come, I hope to head over to their house, turn on all of their lights and televisions, take bites out of their food and put it back in the fridge, make a mess in each room and then laugh all the way home to my own peace and quiet.