Right before I turned 25, I had a massive quarter-life crisis. (Because who doesn’t this day and age?) I was deeply afraid of getting older, which was rooted in the idea, that I thought my life was increasingly passing me by. At that moment, I believed I would never make more than my measly nonprofit salary, that I would be stuck where I was forever, and that I would end up a spinster with eight cats. One night in particular stands out in my mind. It was two weeks before my big 2-5, and my baby brother was visiting me in DC. We were celebrating at a Christmas party, and after several drinks, I started tipsy-crying about my life being over, because I was turning 25. My sweet, just turned 21 year old, brother walked me home in the freezing weather trying to convince me otherwise.
By the time we returned to my house, he had even less of a clue as to how to deal with my breakdown and went to get one of my roommates/best friends. Having recently turned 25, she tried rationalizing all the reasons my life would not end, simply because I was growing older. Of course I didn’t believe her. I now look back at my 25th year as one of the most important so far. As painful as some of those moments in 2009 were, it’s the year I met and fell in love with Eric, the year I co-founded Collective Action for Safe Spaces, and it is a year marked with an immense amount of personal growth.
Looking back on that year, I can now see, that I had two choices to make:
1.) I could continue to wallow about getting older or; 2.) I could take action. At the time, I didn’t realize I was making a choice between the two.
The idea of turning 30 used to scare me. But I’ve realized when you are fully living, age isn’t scary. Getting older is actually a beautiful process.
One of the things Eric taught me early in our relationship was, that age is just a number. (If you ask him how old he is, he’ll probably turn to me and say “Babe, how old am I this year?” Because he truly does not keep track of his age.) The result – people always think he is at least five years younger than he actually is. I’ve been 30 for just over three months, and I’ve loved every second of it. Even the shitty moments. My mom used to tell me there is wisdom in age, which caused me to roll my eyes at her. My mom is right though, there is wisdom in age.
Here are some of the realizations that made me actually appreciate getting older:
1.) Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to write-off all the ways they wronged you. You can take time to process and then rebuild. There are people in my life I thought I’d never forgive, let alone re-build a relationship with. What I’ve learned is, that sometimes when you open the door of acceptance and forgiveness just a crack, the other person might surprise you.
2.) There is so much of our past within our present. And that is OK. I feel strongly, that we should always strive for living in the present. But there is no way to deny our past. It is in us, it makes us who we are, and there is no way to run from it. This means we have to learn how to accept the past, make sense of it, and integrate it into who we are. The life experiences from your past make you unique. We all have shitty-shit in our past. It doesn’t have to define the rest of your life.
3.) When both people in a relationship truly love each other and are willing to do the tough work to compromise when necessary in building a life together, you can get over almost anything. There are certain things I believed relationships could never survive- until I experienced a healthy, committed relationship. People who love one another are capable of hurting each other. But when both people are willing to own up to their mistakes and do the necessary work, a relationship can recover and even become stronger. It’s never easy, and it sometimes takes a lot of therapy and healthy amounts of communication, but the hard work is worth it. In my younger days, I thought the “right” relationship was “right”, because it was easy. Now I realize how wrong I was. A committed relationship takes much more than just love, passion, and ease to make it work.
4.) Just because your metabolism slows down doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. I was recently joking with a woman, who also just turned 30, about how we used to eat anything we wanted, and never workout, without gaining a pound. But you know what? I had my fair plethora of SUPER unhealthy body image issues in my 20s. At times, I abused diet pills, and I sure as hell wasn’t worried about what I was putting in my body. The realization that I am not exempt from the dreaded metabolism slow down, has forced me to contemplate my body image in healthier ways. I think about the things I eat. I’ve found fun ways to workout that I actually enjoy, and I have a slightly better view of my body. I also look back on pictures of my early to mid 20s and call myself crazy for thinking I was fat. Lesson of the day – in 10 years, I will look back on pictures of me in my 30s and call myself crazy for thinking I was fat. So find ways to accept your body now and focus on being healthy- not skinny.
5.) Connection and community are vital to a healthy existence. I started to realize this, when I was doing community organizing and activism work in DC. I began to recognize how important the strength of a community was in order to affect greater societal change. This also translates to each of us as individuals. Your own personal sense of community is important. The world is a much better place, when you have the support and love of friends and family. If you crave community connection, go out and seek it. Also, it is OK to cut out the negative/toxic relationships in your life. Just try not to burn bridges, because you never know what the future holds, and how your life interactions can come back to haunt you. Eric loves to quote Mark Twain to me, whenever I start stressing about my age:
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
And you know what, he is right. It’s never EVER too late for you to make healthy changes. It’s never too late for you to accept who you are and appreciate your body. The number is not important, but how you life your life with integrity ensuring your values and action s are in alignment. Work everyday to live a fulfilled life. Take action instead of waiting for things to happen. When you allow your life to be guided by these standards, then you will discover, that age truly doesn’t matter.
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