It’s really hard for me to write about aging. Hard enough that I’ve been procrastinating on the internet and thinking through what I want to say and then tearing it to shreds before I type a single word–not because it’s so bad, but because I’m trying to avoid writing about it. Which of course, given my obstinate nature, means that now I really have to.
Our culture gives aging a very bad rap. I mean, we live in a world in which it doesn’t sound completely unusual for someone to say that the best years of life were in high school, or college, and once you turn twenty-five, it’s all downhill from there. Whenever I hear that kind of thinking, I want to scream. I mean, sure, there were some good moments in high school, and college was a special time for me, but really? That’s as good as it gets? Fumbling around in the dark being confused and angsty and not understanding what was going on half the time is supposed to be the high point of my life? No, thanks.
I’ve been thinking about aging a lot after that whole tooth debacle, which awakened me to the profound idea that I probably won’t keep all my teeth for my whole life. I know, I know, who hasn’t heard of dentures, but it shook me up all the same. And then I’ve been having all these bizarre health problems, and they make me feel old. For the record, none of these health problems are age-related. Let me repeat that. NONE of them are age-related. But it’s easy to slip into the sloppy thinking that maybe they are.
But really, what makes me think about aging is my epidemic of white hairs. I know, how superficial, right? My mother went gray at a fairly young age, and I remember kids thinking she must be a grandmother because of her hair…when she was around FORTY. Ever since that time I have associated gray hair with looking old, so I am ridiculously disturbed whenever a white hair intrudes upon my notice. It screams out at me with its little crispy voice, “Aha! You see me? You can’t even pretend to be in your twenties anymore. And your life might already be half over.”
I am choosing to reveal my neuroticism about aging (and I’m sure I’m not alone in how I feel) because it is all in my head. Yay society for helping me out with that, but ultimately I can choose for myself how I feel about aging. And what I choose will affect the rest of my life, quite literally. This study showed that people who thought about how aging might be affecting them performed worse on memory performance tests. So how I think about myself as I age will determine what I am able to achieve. Suddenly, developing a healthy relationship with aging seems a whole lot more important.
We tend to focus on the negative impacts of aging, but what about the many positive ones? I’ve become a much more developed singer and musician than I used to be, and I have the same maturation of my writing to look forward to in the future. I know and understand myself a lot better than I used to, which greatly improves the quality of my life. I am happier. I know more things and have more skills. I have perspective and experience, and I look forward to gaining more of both. I have more trust in myself.
Aimee Mann recently gave an interview all about aging (imagine, a famous musician actually daring to talk about her age!), and she said:
So that’s what aging probably means. You’ve got to be around long enough to try all the dumb stuff and then get sick of it and then kind of reach the conclusion of, look, I don’t care if this is cool or sounds cool, I want a life that works now, because I want to be creative, and it’s not being creative to be obsessed, anxious, depressed, trying to control other people, trying to control circumstances, and flipping out when stuff doesn’t go your way. But that’s what most people are. And you know, I don’t need to make cool my higher power. Cool doesn’t work.
Yes. I want to be creative in a way that works. And the closer aging can bring me to that, the more valuable it becomes.
Fundamentally, all of us will either age or we’ll die. Given my choice, I’d pick aging any day.
So, anyone else ever feel neurotic about aging? Got anything you are particularly looking forward to as you age, or have you already experienced some positive benefits? Please share.