It may be the psych major in me, but I’ve always found it interesting to think about the things that stick with you from childhood. I have a distinct memory of a conversation with my mom about birthdays: she was indifferent about them then, but she’d admittedly had a really hard time with turning 30. Parting with her 20s made her sad – depressed, even. An impressionable kid, I held on to that. I’ve dreaded the big 3-0 to the extent that I booked a trip alone (at least initially) as to not have to acknowledge it. The only party on the agenda was a pity party, and there’s obviously only room for one on that guest list.
Ma perché?! The more I think about it, my apprehension is not only silly but irrational. I’ve dreaded 30 not because of its consequences (which, by the way, are nonexistent – you don’t even need a new license) but because that’s what I inadvertently learned you’re supposed to do. So much so, in fact, that I f’ing ran from it.
Working in the senior care field these past few years has been nothing short of incredible. It’s insanely difficult at times, heart-wrenchingly sad at others, but always, always fulfilling. If there’s one thing my loves have taught me, it’s to embrace every single day. Our body is like a vessel; it simply transports us through life. Yes, it grows old – there’s no denying that (we put it through a lot!) but that’s the only thing that really changes. The “growing up” we talk about? The part when we’re supposed to suddenly feel like responsible, accomplished, brave, composed adults? That’s the myth. Nobel Prize winning novelist Doris Lessing said, “The great secret that old people share is that you really haven’t changed in 70 or 80 years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all.” The famous “age is just a number” adage is corny but so, so true.
My loves have taught me (both outright and indirectly) that doing anything short of all you’ve ever dreamt is ludicrous. To wait for better timing or less responsibilities is dumb. To take risks when you feel more courageous is an oxymoron; courage, after all, is not an absence of fear but rather doing what you’re afraid to do. Things will work out as they should – they always have:
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
The point is, who we are inside is not what changes, not at our core. Only our bodies do (speaking of, when does the good stuff happen..? Like no more pimples, for instance?!?). We’ll never feel like we’ve learned it all or that we have it completely together, or that we’re ready for whatever it is we’re scared of. The emotional constraints of growing old are self-imposed and the limits we set for ourselves the real tragedy, not our actual age (even if it’s the dreaded 3-0).