Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Thoughts on Aging

Our society treats aging as a bad thing, but not everyone is lucky enough to do it.

Our culture has a serious problem with aging. Half the beauty ads on TV are selling anti-aging products, or surgeries guaranteed to make us look younger. Two centuries ago, when the life expectancy was late 30s and early 40s, the majority of the population would have given anything to "age." But society has made us feel embarrassed to add another candle to the cake, and God forbid we see a wrinkle on our face.

The dreaded fear of sagging skin has been a complaint among the women in my life for as long as I can remember. And I'll admit sometimes I feel a sense of fear or dread at the thought that my appearance will change over the years, too. But now that I am a little older and have seen a little bit more, every time I think about the wrinkles I might have in 50 years, I have a new thought: I should only hope and pray to still be alive and well in 50 years.

I have friends who, still in their twenties, talk about getting and feeling old with each birthday. I’m sure you can all relate to (or maybe you’re the one feeling?) that. And when I was contemplating my own age following another birthday last month, I took a moment to stop and think if I felt any older or different. The answer was no. Which shouldn’t be surprising, since I am only 23 — in terms of the average life expectancy, I should have a lot of life left ahead of me. But in the wake of another shooting massacre at a college in Oregon last week, I thought about all the victims, many of whom were around my age. They should have had a lot of years left ahead of them, too. I’m sure they would have given anything to watch as wrinkles formed on their aging faces.

But they never will.

To hear people talk negatively about aging — when so many people never get that opportunity — makes me endlessly angry. I understand that it's hard to watch the effects of time on our bodies, but to have a living body to display those effects is the biggest blessing we could hope for. Wrinkles are a badge of honor presented only to the lucky ones still here to claim them, and they should be treated as such. I hope that one day I will have the chance to sit in a chair with my grandchildren and tell them the story behind every wrinkle on my face, every gray hair on my head. Because if I'm lucky enough to get those lines — to make those stories — I'll be grateful for every one. 

P.S. Taking time to be thankful and Thoughts from a college graduate

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