Today is my birthday. Today I am 36 years old. And today I’ve decided to embrace my age.
Last year was a tough birthday. Thirty-five hit me like a slap in the face from Mother Nature. I swear I woke up one year ago today and looked in the mirror to find wrinkles and gray hairs that sprouted overnight. Despite the fact that those wrinkles and gray hairs were actually a figment of my imagination, I spent the better part of age 35 wondering how over 3 decades of my life have managed to pass by and searching for ways to recapture my youth.
Last night, as I closed my eyes on my last day of age 35, I finally accepted the answer to all of those nagging questions I’ve been asking myself about the aging process for the past year. You want to know what the answer is? It’s pretty profound. You ready?
It doesn’t matter.
Yeah, that’s right. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how those years have flown by because we can’t get them back. It doesn’t matter how badly we want to recapture our youth because it’s gone. It doesn’t matter how many expensive night creams we purchase because our appearances are going to change. It doesn’t matter how hard we try to fight the aging process because we’re always going to lose. We age every day, every minute, every second. We can’t fight it. So we might as well embrace it.
When the calendar turned over to May this year, my first thought was, “Oh great, my birthday is coming up.” When people asked how old I was going to be, I answered with a self-deprecating, “I’m turning old.” I laughed, but I didn’t think it was funny. I don’t want to get older. It’s not fair.
Then last week in the midst of my anti-aging self-pity party tantrum, I was slapped in the face yet again. But this time, instead of a reality smack, it was more like a love pat of insight. Not from Mother Nature this time, but from a sweet little 5-year-old boy.
“Mrs. RC, you look younger without your glasses.” I looked up to see little man staring at me as I wiped my lenses off on my shirt.
“How old do I look?” I asked, anticipating the usual estimations of either 18 or 80.
“Beautiful,” he said. It was so matter of fact. There was no hesitation. Just “beautiful.”
And that’s when it hit me. Age doesn’t matter. It isn’t about the number. We are as young as we think we are. And you know what? My youth isn’t lost after all. My youth is omnipresent. I find it in my children, in my students, in my friends, in my gym workouts, in my laughter, in my memories. (I mean really, how can I not feel the arms of youth wrap around me when my students tell me that for my birthday they are going to give me a surprise party, a swordfish, a sweaty shirt, nachos, a new pair of glasses, cheese earrings, garbage, and a stinky frog?)
My youth hasn’t disappeared. It’s simply taken on a new form of maturity and wisdom. I don’t feel old. So why should a silly number bother me? Therefore, I’m no longer telling people I’m turning old this year, and I no longer feel the need to answer the age question with self-deprecating humor. Today I’m 36 years old. And I feel beautiful.