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Midlife

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.
 

 

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

6 responses »

  1. What an enjoyable read.Yes, I very much understand. I will soon turn 51. (What??)
    I wouldn't go back if I could though. In many ways, it's the best time of my life.
    Please keep writing and pursuing all of your dreams. You are truly helping people with your grateful, positive realism about all aspects of life.

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  2. Thanks, Di! I'm ok with being 44–I like the symmetry of the number–but I wish I could still play 3 matches a day!

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  3. I never gave much thought to age when I was younger. I didn't mind getting older because to me it just meant I had more life experiences and that hopefully transferred into wisdom. It took me by surprise how depressed I got about turning 30. I realized there were so many things I wanted to accomplish in life that I thought I would have done so before the big 3-0. Now I approach 35, and I know that is still young, but it's not AS young, so I am getting a little nervous about the ever increasing numbers. I am thankful I am alive, because some don't get 35 years on this earth. But have I made my time worthwhile? I think so. After all, I have three amazing kids. And I am working toward some other goals that are important to me. I want to make every minute count, wrinkles, wisdom, or whatnot 🙂

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  4. I felt the same way about turning 40.

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  5. Isn't it awful that we learn at such a tender age that old is bad, young is good? There are incredible gifts offered to us as we age if we can break free of that debilitating message. And it's funny how so many younger people are uncomfortable when we don't express dismay at getting older. I told myself about 20 years ago that I absolutely would not express dismay about getting older around younger people. My mother did so constantly, and it made the prospect seem much more frightening than it needed to. But a lot of younger people want to hear the dismay. I've been trying to get my Spanish back the last couple of years and started taking classes at Instituto Cervantes in October. Of course I've been the oldest person in the class by at least 15 years, and I've heard lots of comments like, “It's so great that you're still trying to learn!” That one always stops me. I mean, why wouldn't I still be trying to learn? Anyway, all of this to say that, even if I'm still my old neurotic self, I'm happy to be 52. It's a great age, and I wouldn't go back to a younger age for anything. So there!

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  6. Now that you mention it. I wonder what TV shows I was watching.

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