When I was working one of my first “real” jobs in my early 20s, my brother invited me to his 21st birthday party. I worked the night shift as a copy editor for a local paper about 30 minutes from his school, so after I finished for the night, I drove up to see him. He was hosting a get-together at a bar where he worked, and as I walked up to the door, the bouncer met me and asked to see my ID.
This was nothing out of the ordinary, but when he wouldn’t give it back, I became a little concerned. The bouncer called another employee over to look at my ID then said I wasn’t allowed to go in. When I asked why they said they were pretty sure my ID was a fake and there was no way I was old enough to come in. They were prepared to confiscate my license.
I quickly explained I was there to see my brother and that I was his older sister. They still didn’t trust me until my brother actually came over and vouched for me. I walked in, not upset, but feeling like I was on top of the world. I was glad they thought I looked so young. Honestly, what woman ever wants people to think she’s older than she really is?
That incident has not been the only time I’ve been doubted about my age. I say this not to brag, but because in a couple of short months I turn the big 4-0, and lately, I have been struggling with the concept of aging gracefully.
My mom was a natural at aging gracefully until she got sick. No one ever believed her about her actual age either. Even when she hit her 40s, 50s, and beyond, she never really seemed to age in her appearance or her lifestyle. It’s only when I go back and look at photographs from before and after her diagnosis that I can see a change.
I can give some credit to her skincare regimen (she was extremely diligent with her moisturizer and firming cream), but most of the credit goes to the way she lived. She didn’t wear gobs of makeup, she (mostly) watched what she ate, she never overindulged in alcohol and stayed away from tobacco and drugs, she limited her sun exposure (more so as an adult than in her youth), and she tried to limit negativity and stress, though the stress of a terminal illness can wear on even the most carefree people.
I’ve never been one to worry about growing older or shy away from telling people my age. But for some reason, turning 40 has got me in a funk. Maybe it’s the prospect of raising four teenage girls that has me anxious about this upcoming decade. Maybe it’s knowing that wedding season and baby season are over and now I’m just in limbo until grandparent season arrives (and let me tell you, it better not arrive until I’m at least 50).
Age has always just been a number to me, but now those numbers mean bifocals and yearly mammograms and wrinkles and in-explainable knee pain. For some reason, I am extremely hesitant to leap into a new decade. Turning 20, and even to a certain extent, 30, wasn’t scary to me because I was still young and hip enough to stay up on current trends and socialize with people past 9 pm.
Now I change into my pajamas as soon as I can when I get home and find myself Googling signs of perimenopause because it’s not enough that I now also have to worry about facial hair and adult acne and a disappearing metabolism. It almost makes a gal want to throw in the towel. Just take me to a retirement home where I can live out the rest of my days playing shuffleboard and watching re-runs of M*A*S*H.
OK, OK, I’m being too dramatic.
In filmmaker Nora Ephron’s book, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, Ephron humorously shares some of her experiences and feelings about getting older, writing, “Anything you think is wrong with your body at the age of 35 you will be nostalgic for at the age of 45. At the age of 55 you will get a saggy roll just above your waist even if you are painfully thin. This saggy roll just above your waist will be especially visible from the back and will force you to reevaluate half the clothes in your closet, especially the white shirts.”
It’s a good thing I don’t own any white shirts.
I will admit that it’s so nice to finally be at a point in my life where relationships are more meaningful and less superficial. Family game nights are more appealing than late nights partying at the bars. I’m more secure in my surroundings and in knowing that a lot of the big life decisions are already behind me. I love that I’ve started planting roots, and those roots are flourishing. I am finally comfortable with who I am; I’m no longer trying to impress people or be someone I’m not. I’m at a point in my life where I can truly appreciate my faith journey and be thankful for how far I’ve come.
Working out the funk.
Aging is inevitable. We all know this, and we also know there is nothing we can do to stop time. But in writing this piece, I’m realizing what we can control is the way in which we age. We can’t age gracefully if we’re always fretting the small stuff.
Sure, we’re going to wonder where those wrinkles and gray hairs came from, if we’re getting enough sleep, or why we can’t seem to lose those last 10 pounds. But instead of dwelling on what I will call the inconveniences of aging, we can focus more on the things that bring us joy.
There is always joy to be found in life, no matter how many candles we blow out.
For more on purpose and self-confidence, read these:
What Going Back to School After 40 Taught Me
Every Woman Is Unique, but This Is What We All Struggle With
5 Truths About the Best Kind of Beauty
3 Surprising Signs of Strength in a Woman
10 Ways to Boost Your Confidence
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