Over the past several years I have noticed something about growing older: I feel the same as I did when I was a little girl.
I assume I am not the only one who feels this way – and I think this is one of the biggest misconceptions young people have about their future, adult selves – that the older person they will be one day is going to be inherently different in some way.
If I could go back in time and give myself the gift of a few bits and bobs of knowledge, this is one of the things I would like to try to explain to myself.
I am not a different person than I was as a child. I’m that same child – only with many layers of experience, more knowledge – but the same feelings, emotions, and disposition. And maybe even more questions.
“The tragedy of growing old is not that one is old but that one is young.”
– Ruth Rendell, Detective Novelist
I read this quote in my daily delivery of The Writer’s Almanac (one of the few newsletters I read faithfully), and it made me think of this realization I’ve had about growing older.
I recently turned 45 and though I wouldn’t say that I have grown old, I have grown older. I think this knowledge of the continuum of self makes me think differently of the old lady I will be one day.
Our culture in the US is extremely ageist. Youth is celebrated, while aging is covered up, removed with plastic surgery, creams, photoshopping, and so on.
Yet aging is the natural progression of our bodies. To deny aging is to deny nature. I would rather have wrinkles and be part of the natural world than look ageless and live in an artificial bubble.
But is our quest for the appearance of eternal youth perhaps linked to that feeling of eternal youthfulness that we have inside?
I wonder if there is someway that we, as a culture, can acknowledge that feeling of youth that dwells inside of us without the need to continually chase the appearance of youth. Maybe then it wouldn’t feel like a tragedy.