How to Age Gracefully
When I was a young teen, say 14 or 15, I decided that the day I turned that ancient age of 21 would be the day I would start using anti-wrinkle cream. 21 came and went and I still felt dewy and elastic in the face, but I was already starting to get grey hairs and was dying my hair to cover up the silvery roots regularly. By my mid-twenties it was no longer an option not to dye, and I decided that at 30 I would let myself naturally go grey, an external display of an internal readiness to age gracefully.
I just turned 30 and I have neither anti-wrinkle cream (or pro-youth cream, which it’s probably now called) nor a proud head of silver hair. What I do have are some questionably colored tights and headbands that I still wear un-ironically, although the seashell jewelry has, more or less, been expunged from regular rotation. I am proud to say that I don’t own any Graphic Tees.
I had all of these ideas about how I was going to age, how I would do kegels every day and rub eye cream on my boobs to stop them from their southern decent. I was going to know exactly what I was doing and where I was going, be held down by no one and tied to nothing. Things played out differently, as they tend to. It’s not just the cosmetic stuff either, I am tied very much to a person and a place, I have more responsibility than I thought I would have, and the changes I have made are not ones that I could have predicted at 15 or 21. I simply want different things now than when I was younger.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was an algorithm or magic mirror that could tell you want future you would want? You pick a year, up to five years in the future, and the device tells you “2021 Rachel will want to save sea turtles and live on the beach”. That way you could get a head start, and by the time you want something you’ll already be there! It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy minus the oedipal connotations. I know that if such a thing existed, I would find a way to change my mind despite the gift of futuresight, and find myself on a beach in 2021 wanting to eat sea turtles and wear their shells as hats and everything would be ruined!
Certain things have become clearer as I have aged, I question my motives less and don’t spend ALL my time worrying about what other people are doing or thinking, although still more time than I should I’m sure. I try to be more present in my friendships and intentional in my conversations, but as with anything there are improvements that can be made. Ideally, we would see aging as less of a scale and more of a ripple, an expanding as opposed to a linear stack of accomplishments and personal goals.
I still don’t really know what I’m doing with my life, but I don’t see it as this big puzzle that needs an always-just-out-of-reach piece to make sense. I see it more as just another thing that’s happening, less consequential than it felt when I was a teenager trying to make decisions about my future skincare regime, and more influential as I see the mark that friendship has had on my life and the lives of my friends. I don’t feel old, but neither does my mother who is 53. As an eccentric young man who chatted me up in a park in Kamloops, Canada once told me, ‘No one is old, everyone is young’ and you don’t have to cover up your greys if you don’t want to.