There’s a weird little “challenge” going around Facebook right now. It started out innocently enough, asking people to post their first ever profile picture beside their most current one. Then it morphed or something, because all I started to see after that was a copied and pasted, “How hard has aging hit you?”, with the requisite old picture and new picture. Compliments are flying about how everyone aged so well, and look better now, and blah blah blah. It bothered me, but I couldn’t put my finger on why until today. Undeniably, with very few exceptions, people DO look better as they age… but it actually has nothing to do with looks.
If we’re basing this on just physical appearance, here’s how aging has hit me:
I’ve gained weight, to the tune of 30 pounds, due to a changing metabolism, stress eating (and stress drinking), and medication. Everything about my body is softer.
I have a lot more grey in my hair than I used to, and I go back and forth between covering it up, and letting it run free.
I have more lines around my eyes. Evidence that I’ve laughed many gales, and shed many tears.
I have more lines on my forehead too, and between my brows and at the corners of my lips.
My skin can’t decide if it wants to be dry or greasy, often vacillating between the two, or somehow being both at the same time. I have weird spots that aren’t acne or freckles, but are just… spots.
More things hurt on my body than they used to, and I’m more clumsy than ever (which pairs nicely with the fact that I also bruise more easily)
And in the grand scheme of life? NONE OF THE ABOVE MATTERS.
Because here’s how aging has really hit me:
I’m stronger. I went from a people-pleasing, frightened girl to someone who not only found her voice, but isn’t afraid to use it. Hard times shaped me, and good times smoothed the edges.
I’m wiser. Not the kind of wiser you get from reading books or taking classes, but from living this messy life we live. From making mistake after mistake and learning from them.
I love harder. I’ve endured the betrayal of false friends, and found the joy and the healing in new ones. And my kids? My kids taught me to love fiercely and unconditionally and without apology.
I’m more open. My world which was once narrow (so narrow!) and black and white, is now vast and colorful and limitless.
I’m more ME. Ten years ago, I was starting to shake off the shackles, but 20 years ago? No idea who I was, or who I could be. Not an earthly clue. Now I know me. I accept me. I embrace me.
I’m braver. Ten years ago when someone told me I couldn’t do something, I’d believe them. And now? Now my response is, “watch me.”
I’m softer (and not just my belly). You would think that becoming stronger and braver would make a person hard, but the opposite is true. Learning to love who I am made me embrace both the tough, I-can-do-anything-I-set-my-mind-to self, AND the empathetic, sensitive, emotional self that so many people told me to deny. I feel deeply, I care deeply, I love deeply. My entire life I’ve been told I was too sensitive, and you know what? This world we live in right now is full of harshness and ragged edges. The world needs sensitive. The world needs empathy. The world needs soft. The world needs people who’ve unapologetically settled in to their aging, wrinkling, grey haired badass selves.
So, no. I won’t be participating in any “How hard has aging hit me” challenges. My face tells such an insignificant part of the story. I am so much more than my aging face.
And you are too.