There was a time, when I was younger, that I thought there was no shame in growing older. When I turned thirty, I wanted to have a HUGE party to celebrate a new decade. (It didn’t happen; we had a big Halloween party, instead. And my idea to dress as babies was nixed for that, too.) At that time, I also believed that wrinkles showed your inner beauty and that they were nothing to be ashamed of; you should be proud of them. But then I changed my mind.
What happened? I got older. What was, in my twenties, merely an abstract thought (that I would age and become older, wrinkles, gray hair and all) has now begun to become fact. It has been coming on slowly, but I now find myself loathe to admit my age.
Just a few weeks ago, Ellwood looked at a picture of C. and me when we first met, back in 1997. Ellwood said, ‘That was before you had wrinkles.’ Shocked, I asked, what wrinkles? He very sternly pointed at his own mouth. Evidently, I frown enough that my son has noticed those wrinkles. *sigh*
It happens to everyone, if you are lucky. And quite frankly I don’t want to be this shallow. My plan was to age gracefully, embracing the changes that come rather than trying to cover them up with creams or dyes. What I wasn’t prepared for was the mortality factor. Aging is not just a superficial changing of your body; with it you are forced to take stock of your life as it has been, where it is now and where it is going in the future. The change in your outward appearance is just a reminder of the deeper issues at work. It’s a mid-life crisis.
Or is it really a crisis? Many people choose to start a new career at this time in their lives. I can understand why. If you aren’t particularly happy with how things are going in your life, now would be the time to change them. Maybe it should be called it a mid-life challenge, instead.
Scary as the thought of our own mortality is, it’s often a thought which helps throw people into action. Having gotten caught up in the trappings of ‘life as we know it’ many people give up on their dreams in order to survive; choosing to work a crappy job that supports the family rather than working for little to no money in a job that they love. That is why people come to a point mid-life and say, ‘Wait a minute! What’s this all about? What happened to the dreams of my youth?
(Do people who live out their dreams have this same problem? Do they stop to ask themselves what is it I have done with my life? What contributions have I made? Was it worth it? Or have they already answered those questions by living a vibrant, active life?)
And yet your job is not your life, not your real identity. It is something you do to pay the bills. If you are lucky, you enjoy what you do to make money. Your life is expressed by the interactions you have with people, the connections you make, the impact you have on others. We often lose sight of this reality in the mad rush to ‘get things done.’ (A worthy cause, just not one you should devote your life to.)
Although it’s actually a tad early for me to be having this crisis of identity, still this is where I am. So, what to do? I guess my challenge now is to live up to the ideals I had in my twenties as regards aging. And maybe find some way to make the best of the creative energy I am feeling.