I don’t like getting older. I even obsessed about it as a child. When I was around 7, I remember asking my dad if you get to choose your age when you go to heaven, and he said yes. Every year I would choose my current age, because I was sure that the next year would be worse.
I had a plan for what I would do when I got old: I would use Oil of Olay to prevent wrinkles, Clairol to dye my hair, and Coast soap to bring me back to life–because that was their slogan, which I took literally. That shows you the power of advertising.
I didn’t consider myself middle-aged until I turned 43. I’m immature for my age in a lot of ways because I still live the life of a college student–a night owl with no children and no spouse whose work revolves around the academic calendar.
Although my mind is still somewhere in my 20’s, my body has proceeded at a normal developmental pace. Once I hit 43, I became far-sighted. My knees hurt all the time–not just after playing tennis 5-6 times in a row. I started dying my hair.
I don’t want other people to get older, either. Every year I tell my niece that she has to stay the same age. Whenever I leave my parents’ house, I feel anxious at the thought of seeing them sick or debilitated someday. I am terrified of losing them. I got a glimpse of what it would be like when my dad was depressed, and I did not handle it well.
I try to practice gratitude, self-compassion, and mindfulness to accept the aging process. I try to remember what I have to be thankful for in this moment, try to enjoy my blessings while I have them. I tell myself that lots of people have these fears–it doesn’t make me crazy. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.
It helps some. But I’m still afraid.
There are only two things that I look forward to about getting older. One is that I will continue to become a better therapist because I will have seen more clients, had more life experience, and will possess more wisdom.
The other thing is that my writing will improve for the same reasons. I have wanted to write a book since high school. In the 10th grade we had a writing assignment where we had to project what we would be doing in the future. I wrote a mock interview where I was 45, answering questions about my book.
So it’s no coincidence that I made my first effort to publish my writing through blogging at the age of 44. I realized that if I wanted to make something happen for myself, I had to start now.
So I guess that’s one good thing about being middle-aged: as you reflect on the first half of your life, you realize what you have to do to make the most out of the second half.