For years, whenever I would hear anyone say they wished they could be 17 years old forever—or 21 or 25—I would find myself thinking “I’d like to be 42 forever.” I remembered age 42 as a time of independence and blossoming for me. Things that were once important had passed out of my life; an awareness of new ideas and a stronger sense of self were emerging in me; and life felt ripe for possibility.
A few months before turning 50, I sold my house just 5 miles outside of downtown Boston. My love Joe and I bought a condo together right in the heart of the city. Leaving behind the almost 100 year old two-family home meant not only moving on but leaving behind the responsibilities of being a landlord and a land owner. No more weekends spent working on repairs or upkeep! Now I was in the city, in a newly constructed building, with newfound time on my hands to follow creative pursuits. Because of this, turning 50 felt liberating to me. Holy cow—50 years behind me! Surely I had some license to be me by now.
I have to admit that turning 51 did not hold the same thrill. There’s no sense of milestone in it, and my face in the mirror had lines that defied how I saw myself. I remember buying a book called, “How Not To Look Old.” I gleaned a few lessons from it, vowing never to wear my reading glasses on a chain or wear clothes that were too matchy-matchy. But seriously, there’s a point when you know you’ll have to work increasingly harder to stay young looking, because as long as you’re alive, you’re only moving in one direction: old age. You can take the best possible care of yourself and your body, but you will still be moving in that direction. You can resist aging all you like, or you can accept it and even learn to celebrate it.
Last October, I turned 56. Thinking about these numbers can get pretty surreal sometimes. I remember being a kid, then a teenager, then a young adult, stopping only now and then to consider how many years had gone by. As a kid I saw myself as an artist and a writer, but the path I took went ALL OVER THE PLACE. It’s funny how you might know already who you are, but you can’t quite integrate that knowledge into your life in practical ways. The things that hold us back are so unnoticeable to us at times. Now, six years after moving into the city, I have a new art studio down the street from my home and I have a lot of fun making and selling art. I have been learning new things and building my art business, the result of the creative pursuits I was beginning to explore when I moved into the city at age 50!
I no longer wish I could be 42 forever. Why? 56 feels pretty good! Another 14 years from now, maybe 70 will feel even better.
I’ll tell you another dirty little secret about aging. Things start to hurt. Yeah. So you better be engaged in doing things you really love if you don’t want to spend your days thinking about your aches. Doing what you love to do is the best distraction you’ll ever find.
Today I stumbled upon The Thrive Portrait Project on the Chookooloonks website. This photo essay project by Karen Walrond features images of six different women, ranging in age from 42 to 52, who describe in their own words what it means to thrive. The photographs are lovely and the thoughts of these six women are especially thoughtful.
Have a happy weekend, everyone. And many, many, many more.
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