I am 35 years old. I grew up a year older than the other students in my grade. Actually there was only one person in my high school class that had a birthday earlier than mine. At that time I felt proud to be 16 first and then 18 first and then 21 first. It has become less and less exciting over time. I remember being the first to turn 30. I also remember throughout the remainder of the year, and the year to follow, as those I went to high school with started to turn 30. That’s when I started seeing percussions of “I feel so old…” strumming about on my social media activity feeds.
At first I fell into the trap. In fact, just a few weeks back I was starting to devise my Live Forever Young Strategy (LFYS for short). The LFYS was vital to my health and longevity, you see. After all, the next step after accepting age is, well, death, right? If I accept that I am aging then I am also accepting the confines of my own short life. The LFYS allows me to live in a world where as long as I clasp, white knuckled, to a perception of youth then I will have more life to live. I can spend my hard earned money buying creams and potions and injections and surgeries to rid my eyes and face and hands and teeth and hair and breasts and legs and veins from any and all signs of aging. This way I get to live happier thinking that I’ve got a long way to go regardless of if I live until tomorrow or to the age of 100. And apparently all of this starts happening at the ripe old age of 30.
Fortunately, I am a slave to logic, and the logic doesn’t really test out in this case. Each day of my life, regardless of what decade it is lived in, is equally capable of producing happiness. I should be looking forward with anticipation instead of backward with anxiety. I am, under no circumstance, an expert on the topic. However, I have been fortunate enough to happen upon some stronger logic in this case.
The Simple Blessing of Being Alive
I first “met” Dr. Maya Angelou as a young girl pressing my nose up to the television screen during an episode of Arsenio Hall. I then promptly used her autobiographies as my detailed guidebook out of a life of poverty. I’ve also been fortunate that she didn’t leave this world without giving me another guide on how to age with anticipation, as opposed to anxiety, as well. I present to you two interviews with Maya Angelou on the topic of aging. This first interview was recorded on April 4, 2002 otherwise known as Maya Angelou’s 74th birthday.
We still had more than a decade of Maya’s life left to enjoy. This second interview took place in her 85th year (one year before her death at the age of 86).
The size, shape, appearance and condition of your body is not a valuation of its worth. That message does not bode well for the marketers of anti-aging paraphernalia (some of which likely ended up as ads on this page due to the imperfect algorithms that serve such things up…I welcome you not to click on them in this case). However, it does lend us both a healthy mind and healthy wallet as we journey through this life. You owe your life more simply by the virtue of being here to live it. Let us find our deepest beauty in the sunrise of each new year as opposed to clinging hopelessly to the sunset of the year before it. Let us have gratitude for the gift that life gives us by living it with gratitude. Say “yes, how lucky am I!” to each new year instead of whispering your new age under your breath.
When you are sad about being 30 I ask you to remember Brandon Carl. He was the construction worker and father of four that died at the age of 35 last month during a construction accident that resulted in the collapse of a bridge along the I-75 here in Cincinnati.
When you are sad about being 40 I ask you to remember Tammy Meyers. She was a nurse and mother of four who died just yesterday after she was shot outside her home as a result of a road rage incident that occurred while she was teaching her daughter how to drive.
When you are sad about being 50 I ask you to remember Avril Dempster. She passed away less than a week ago in a car crash that occurred after she visited her newborn granddaughter.
When you are sad about being 60 I ask you to remember my grandmother, Dorothy Hatch, who taught me how to microwave bread and accept all humans as extended family regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality, and sexuality well before those lessons were en vogue. She died of brain cancer in her mid 60s when we all still had so very much left to learn from her.
When you are sad about being 70 I ask you to remember Carol Prior who died just a few days ago in a house fire. Remember that 24 hours earlier she was unaware of how precious those final hours would be.
When you are sad about being 80 I ask you to remember Dr. Maya Angelou who died at the age of 86. If I am so fortunate, then I will have 51 more years on this earth when I am the age she was when she died. There are so many possibilities left in 51 years of life. Why should I be saddened or anxious by that opportunity? Hopefully by that time I will have realized that in this small spot of time we have in this life, it is true compassion and kindness, not wealth, power, youth, or fame, that unseal the spring of happiness. The younger I am when I realize this, the happier my life will be.
Life is Beautiful at Any Age
I’m not sure where this journey of trying to grow old without anxiety will take me. However, I do know that I will start this journey where I started this post in the first place. I am 35 years old. I will be older soon enough, and I will admit to my age then too. I will not say it in shame. In fact, I will say it with great appreciation. My goal will be to reach each of my ages without anxiety and full of anticipation. In every age I hope I am grateful. For every moment I have available in this world I hope I pay it back in both compassion and kindness. Care to join me?
Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told “I’m with you kid. Let’s go”.
– Dr. Maya Angelou