There are many cliches to take the edge off of aging. Aging is like fine wine. You get better with age. You’re only as old as you feel. These statements have aged in their own way, becoming nothing more than loose change to toss into a fountain and wish upon. And ones that I let fall on deaf ears.
I also think of the phrases “over the hill” and “fifty is the new forty” and other variations that indicate mile markers in life. As society embraces these phrases to mark important events of life, I can’t help but wonder why these particular numbers have a timestamp. Milestones can – and should – happen at any age, so why wait for a number to designate the “right” time to try a new hobby, retire, travel, change careers. Maybe the perfect age is the one we are living.
I suppose I should be readying myself for an “over the hill” slump of some sort. But I am not so sure. Each year I feel my opportunities widen, rather than diminish, as I age.
I can’t say that I have always felt this way. I chose not to celebrate my 35th birthday. For a moment – well, a year – the number 35 rounded me up to 40, and I was not quite ready to consider a new decade. I am now less than one year away from this milestone. Will I be “over the hill”? I don’t think so.
I feel like I have lived many lives even though I am just now approaching 40. I’ve lived in four states and moved several times, even once moving from a one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom apartment in the same complex – after one week – because my best friend said she wanted to move to Maryland with me. I’ve taught in six different schools in only fifteen years of teaching. Each event along my journey has been some sort of “uphill climb” in trying to make the best of life at that moment. Some events were planned, some unplanned. More recently, as I have started to write, I never thought, “I will be too old to do this.” The perfect age is the age in which you feel limitless.
If I look back at each of my decades, there was something perfect about each one. In my twenties, I was able to live with a certain amount of freedom – without being responsible to another person or for another person. Had I been married at that point in time, or become a mother, I would be a much different wife and mother than I am now as someone who experienced those events later in life.
In my thirties, I have made a lot of choices for the benefit of others, not myself. Sacrifice is essential in relationships, but too much sacrifice can take the joy out of life. Much of my time in my thirties has been an uphill climb as I have made choices to make others happy. And I have paid the price. But I have also gained in this, and these hurdles have allowed me to develop a better sense of what I want, and now it is mine for the taking.
What do I hope to learn in my forties and beyond? That I have lived my life long enough to know that mistakes are ok. That trying and failing is no big deal. That I have my own voice to make my own choices for myself. That change is healthy. And possibly, patience as a virtue. I am still working on this. That will be a life-long lesson for me, and if there is an age in which patience is granted, then that might be my perfect age!
Maybe the perfect age is a collection of the ages. Maybe the perfect age is the age we are living as we gather lessons along the way, which is a good thing now that I am celebrating birthdays again, though sometimes I am a year off!