I clearly remember, in the full hubris of youth, laughing with my friends that we'd never make it to 30. We laughed because who would want to get that old? We swore we'd never turn into our parents: dull, responsible adults who didn't play, didn't take risks, didn't embrace life. Who would want to have that? Not us.
In my 20s, I realized thirty wasn't so old and rather than slowing down as I approached that once dreaded age, life was actually getting better. Life wasn't getting less adventurous or risky. In fact, life at 30 was faster, more fun, and even more exciting than it had been in my 20s. Back then, child that I was, I didn't even know about so many of the opportunities the world had to offer. I just had to reach out and take advantage of them. And if I did take advantage of all of them (and I tried) I'd be lucky to see 40. That was okay by me. Who'd want to get that old anyway? Not me.
I went right on living life all-out, embracing new experiences, traveling to new places, doing and learning new things. The more new things I did, the more I wanted to do. Most surprising to me was, even though I found myself pushing 40, I still felt young. I wasn't turning into a couch potato, I wasn't feeble. I learned a second language, went back to school, earned a PhD, and ran my first marathon in my thirties. In my 40s, I married the love of my life, we moved to
Europe, I learned a third language, and I got to pursue my lifelong dream of writing a novel and having it published. Maybe getting older wasn't such a bad thing? I
had to grow older, but I didn't have to grow up, so maybe this aging thing would be okay.
Now, here I am, in my 50th year. Despite my best efforts, I am slowing down. My body is betraying me with aches and pains. A couple hours of yard work kicks my butt. Some parts, like the eyes and ears, don't work so well any more. Still, when I had my yearly physical, the doctor looked over my blood work and said I'm in incredible shape...
"...for a woman of your age."
Yes. He actually said that. For a woman of my age!
None of these changes are unexpected, of course. I know what happens as the human body ages...hell, I teach a whole unit on that in my Human Biology classes. I think my scientific background will help me get through all this, if not gracefully, at least with a minimum of trauma. I'm approaching my aging as a scientist, an objective observer. I can look in the mirror (the one that magnifies) and say, "Hmmmm...interesting. A white eyebrow."
That may be sugar-coating it. It wasn't a white eyebrow. It was a big, coarse, wiry gray eyebrow, poking straight out, refusing to lay flat. (What the hell?!?!) I plucked it out. That may have been a bad idea. In its distress, I think it sent out a signal to its friends to attack. More pop out (literally) each day. Plucking is no longer an option unless I want to be one of those old ladies who paint on their eyebrows every morning.
As the magnet on the bulletin board over my desk says, "Getting Old Is Not For Sissies." I've never been accused of being a sissy. Bring it on!
If you can handle it, and either to fondly recollect your own 50th year or to cringe with anticipation, I'll occasionally share more of my observations on turning 50 with you over the next 7 1/2 months, no matter how shocking they are. Please feel free to share your own tales of this big adventure by leaving a comment below!