How to Grow Old with Yourself
Wine, cheese, George Clooney, your cocktail party anecdotes. These are all things that get better with age.
And as far as I’m concerned, we should be doing everything we can to add ourselves to that list. Because, whether you read the title of this article and thought, “I’m not old, ew!” or “That chick isn’t old, I’m old,” we’re all in this together; since, actually, none of us are as young as we once were. That’s just a fact.
But this is not necessarily bad news. Sure, your hot bod won’t always stay this hot this easily, and you will slowly stop getting carded, and then start making jokes about how flattered you are that you did get carded. But you will also have that really sexy thing that you probably did not have in your teens or early 20s: wisdom.
For many of us, certainly those in our late 20s or early 30s, you’ve recently reached the point where the ‘road map’ that was given to you sort of ran off the page. You probably graduated high school, then maybe college, then probably secured some kind of job, and then -poof!-the magical Now Do This Next didn’t appear.
And this is even better news. Because as far as I’m concerned, this is when you start to really live. Your rules, your priorities, your life.
So as I pondered growing older, and this particular life stage, I scraped up some tips and tricks on how to grow old with yourself: ways to rethink your life, and age gracefully, if you will. Even if the word ‘aging’ is giving you goose bumps and you wish I would stop saying it already.
Learn how to fail, and how to forgive.
I wrote once about the F-word. And I saw a good quote on Pinterest the other day (because, really, this is 87% of what is on Pinterest these days) that said: “ Failure is proof that you tried, now go try again.” This is life, guys. If we went back and tallied our failures, when all is said and done, we probably failed more than we succeeded. The hope, of course, is that the successes really matter, and are really worth it. And I have a sneaking suspicion that they will be when you have the right attitude. Oh and the other F-word? Forgiveness. Yikes. The crazy thing about growing older is that holding onto past bitterness actually starts to feel really, really heavy. Even more so if that un-forgiveness is directed at yourself. My very favorite author, Anne Lamott says, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
Help others understand you.
A funny thing happened in my old age; namely, I got to know myself. It turned out that while I was still the outgoing, social gal I had always been, at my core I was quite introverted. And once I moved into my own place without roommates, and started working for myself, I learned to treasure my time alone. But this can be very confusing for people who have known you in the past and expect a different (or, expired) thing from you. The best thing you can do is let close friends in on the things you’ve discovered and learned about yourself. Whether these new personal notions came through a breakup, or serious counseling, or a spiritual experience, expectations are everything in relationships. People will be much more understanding and gracious and content once they know what to expect. And then you get to stop feeling like you’re either letting people down, or letting yourself down. Those are simply not the only two choices. Change is a giant part of growing older. Don’t just embrace it, help the ones you love embrace it too.
Oh the joy of growing up and learning how to ask big, important questions that you maybe never asked before. For me this has revolved around religious and political ideas. I was raised in an extremely conservative home, and simply (and happily, I might add) trusted the things I was taught at church and in school and at home. Mostly, I wouldn’t change a thing. I see a lot of beautiful things that came from some of my innocence. But once I learned that doubt is actually a sign of growth, I started to spread my wings and discover for myself what I believed in. And this never really stops. Because tomorrow you will learn something new, and discover a different facet, and get to make decisions all over again and this is actually a wonderful freedom.
Figure out what you actually like to do.
I don’t just mean career-wise. This site is brimming with advice on how to pursue what you love. I read these inspirational stories and advice and it spurs me on in my own career (and no, I am not getting paid to say this,) but what I’m talking about here is what you like to do, and what you want out of life. This is that Big Picture that you get to draw for yourself. Does a white picket fence and weekends spent at soccer tournaments and Bed, Bath and Beyond make you want to hurl yourself off of a cliff? Then maybe don’t build a life that is headed in that direction. Do you love to travel and want to spend as much time possible exploring? Make cuts in other areas so you can financially swing it (cough, cough Airbnb.) Would you rather spend your weekends discussing a new book than checking out the new restaurant downtown? That’s splendid! Gather the people and make it happen. There is no wrong way to live your life, and it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you. Huzzah!
Throw convention out the door.
This may bring me more peace than you, but I have found so much joy in embracing my own definition of happiness and The Good Life. The other day I said to a friend, “Man, I just can't wait to be a crazy old lady and say whatever I want and wear muumuus.” Which, I know is ridiculous. But why can’t I do that now? We don’t have to wait to start being the people we want to be, no matter what age we are.
Here’s the truth, guys: life changes in an instant. Moments and opportunities and experiences come and go and then come back again. We aren’t promised anything, but we’re all probably luckier than we realize. And if we do it right, there’s no reason that your best years can’t be right now, and also ahead of you.
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