Whew! It has been an exhausting couple of weeks with home repairs, medical issues, working late nights and not sleeping for days on in, it has been a real dozy. It really hit home for me: I’m not as young as I used to be. In the past, I could have shrugged a few sleepless nights off without a problem. Now? Well, now it is taking me a lot longer (and I mean days) to recover. All of this got me thinking about all the things that no one tells you about getting older.
There is a lot more to aging than work, marriage, kids, retirement and death. Sure, we know about divorce and remarriage. Of course, we know about the realities of hair color and switching to age-appropriate skin care regimes. Yet there is so much that no one told us about.
Here’s the truth about aging. It is a fact of life (if you live that long). It is gradual. It isn’t a game-ender. No one works up one day gray, with a face full of wrinkles, a walker and a mouth full of dentures. It all happens slowly over time. And, yes, there are things we can do to slow it down but we cannot stop it.
Hollywood and its youth obsession cannot spread to us real women. I lived in L.A. for a few years in my mid 30s and I know my share of women who were already going under the knife for touch-ups and preventive treatments – all in a vain and laughable attempt to look 25 – even if at 35, 45, 55 or 65. Let’s get real. 25-year-olds look 25. A 45 or 55-year-old who tries to look 25 looks sad at best and scary at worst.
It is up to us real women to reclaim the aging process and inject it truths instead of collagen. Aging is nothing to fear, in fact, it is something to accept and ease into. Nutrition, exercise and just living life can slow the process. However, nothing will stop it. Beauty doesn’t stop at a specific age. Beauty comes in all ages, shapes, sizes and colors. We must share that message with our mothers, our sisters and friends and our daughters and granddaughters.
No one told me about aging family members. Yes, we are aging but so are our parents. I’m seeing this myself right now with my father. As children, we relied on our parents. Now, our parents are starting to rely on us. The game has changed. We need to make sure they are eating right, taking their meds and seeing their doctors. We might need to care for them directly or find someone else who will. When I was younger, I assumed my dad would always be my dad: strong, independent and able to come to my house paint a couple of rooms and fix a few things. Yet that is changing and to be perfectly honest, it is scaring the shit out of me.
Related to aging is what comes afterwards: death. No one can prepare you for an aging parent and no one can prepare you for death. My mother died when I was 15 from complications from diabetes. Towards the end, it was obvious what was coming. She was not going to get better. I knew that and so did everyone around me. But, nothing could prepare me for that day in June when my father, in sunglasses to hide the tears in his eyes, told me that my mother had passed. I can still see that moment so clearly over 30 years later.
In high school and college, the death of a parent is an anomaly. As we get older, it is a fact of life. It isn’t any less scary or overwhelming but it is a lot more common. One of my mom’s best friends died recently and it absolutely floored me. Talking to her was a lot like talking to my mom. I would visit every time I went home and now she was gone. Part of my mom died all over again. My father has lost several siblings, my aunts and uncles. What was a big family is becoming smaller with every passing year.
As far as living and loving, I recently watched a video where older people were asked to give advice to younger people. One man said something that runs counter to what is commonly heard today. He told young people that you don’t have to do what you love for a living. He said, do something you like so you have the time and income to do something you love.
Think about it. If everyone were doing what they love for their career do you think we’d have an overabundance of cashiers, waitresses or even teachers or accountants (or lawyers). We would however be overrun with artists, singers, actors and writers. I loved his comment because it was real. I am a blogger and podcaster. I really enjoy cooking and photography. However corporate training and instructional design is what pays the bills and makes everything else possible. Here’s the key, when I go to work, I like what I do. It uses my talents (teaching/facilitating and writing) and my creativity. I work with people I enjoy working with. This translates to a great life. I make a living doing something I excel at and like to do. I come home and indulge in the things that interest me. I tried to make a living at what I loved once and do you know what? It left me worried, stressed, broke and I ended up not loving the thing I loved. Think about it. It makes sense. It isn’t passionate and it isn’t the stuff the dreams are made of but it works.
There is doing what you love and there is finding who you love. I’ve had the opportunity to mentor a few young professionals and I give them a piece of advice that I had wished someone had given me. Love doesn’t just happen. Like everything else, you must work for it. It is well into the 21st century and we still hold on to the romantic notion that ‘love will find you.’ Not only will it magically find you but it will most likely find you ‘when you aren’t looking’.
You had to work to get good grades to get into college. You had to work in college to graduate. You must work hard to get a job and move up the ladder. You work on your finances. You work on your health. You work at working out. But love … ah, love … it will just find you. Uh, no. Does that work for some people? I guess so but I don’t believe it is advice that should be shared and encouraged.
So, go ahead and comment. What do you wish someone had told you about growing up and growing older?