I turned 49 this week and that’s honestly a little mind-boggling. I remember as a kid, 49 sounded SO old. And even now, it still sounds pretty old – but as someone who now actually IS this age, I know that it’s actually not. I seriously don’t feel old at all!
I’ve had this same conversation with other generation Xers lately, both female and male, and they echoed the same sentiment. We all still feel young, fun and cool – even if the digitally native gen Z kids we’re raising think we’re dinosaurs. So what’s the point of being this old if we’re going to feel the same as ever? Well, honestly, I think it’s wisdom. We do have that.
Anyway, I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to write about in honor of my birthday – and this, the last year of my 40s – and then I saw this Anne Lamott quote on Twitter and realized YES, that’s it exactly:
Most of us don’t notice how great we look until years, even decades later.
Looking back at photos of myself in my 20s and 30s, I love what I see – yet I didn’t back then. I hated so much about how I looked: I was never thin enough, stylish enough, fit enough, polished enough. My skin was never smooth or tan enough, my life was never together enough and I could never seem to keep my New Year’s resolutions.
There’s a running joke that after 40, women just don’t care anymore, give zero “you know whats” and have zero chill but you know what? It’s all true. Part of it is that we don’t need to prove ourselves anymore and we know our worth. Another part is that we have little to lose by this age so we can speak our minds.
But enough about me. I can tell you now that in ten or 20 years, more than likely YOU are going to look back at photos of yourself right now and love what you see. You’ll realize how amazing you were. You’ll smile at how youthful and vibrant and fit you were – even if you don’t feel that way at all currently.
So can’t we just skip the self-loathing and constant misguided attempts at self-improvement and conformity to society’s warped image of beauty? Can’t you just believe me that you’re beautiful and amazing now, and instead get on with the business of loving yourself and your life and making improvements only because you want to, and not because you feel you have to?
I know – it’s not that easy. We each have to live, learn and figure these things out for ourselves. I can’t go back in time and tell 20-something me to quit dieting and feeling miserable about myself and just go ahead and wear what I want, eat what I want and work out because it feels good, not because I “have” to.
I guess I’m just happy that today, at 49, I know better. I could waste time worrying about wrinkles, age spots, feeling bad about myself because I’m chubby, and finding other ways to fight the clock and “look better” – but eff that. I’m over it. Sure, I want to look good and feel good about myself (and get my new dental implant as fast as I can, so I can stop scaring small children with the hole in my smile), but only because I want to. If I want to wear bright colors and be a sparkly mermaid unicorn, I will. If I want to dress all in black, get even more tattoos and go out dancing in spooky goth clubs, I’ll do that too.
I used to lament that I never quite fit in with any of the groups I hung around with: pot-smoking hippies, LGBTQ+ folks, the tattoo community, super ambitious corporate worker-bee types and so many others.
I see now that not being precisely any of those things is perhaps what makes me the most uniquely me.
Sure, I’ll look back in ten years and think I look great, but I’m not going to wait until then; I already think that now. I feel truly comfortable in my (very colorful) skin, battle scars and all. I appreciate and value time more now than I did in my 20s and 30s, so I refuse to spend any more of it worried or anxious about not being enough. I am exactly enough – and so are you.
So what if I’m 49 with a 9 year old. She keeps me young, fun and constantly trying new things. Today we went to an amazing flower-crown workshop with Ash & Hart Floral at gather in Delaware and it was SO amazing. Would I learn the fine art of flower-crown making and then take a bazillion selfies with Z in our gorgeous creations if I didn’t feel truly great about myself?
It doesn’t mean there aren’t still things I want to work on… but I don’t feel any outside pressure to do that. I want to eat healthfully and move more so that I can feel good and hopefully live even longer. I want to keep striving in my relationships and career because I want to be the best that I can. But I’m not trying to prove anything, look a particular prescribed way, reach a certain rung on a ladder or be any more or less me than I am right now.
Honestly, the only reason I still even color my hair to cover my ubiquitous platinum grey roots is that Z has indicated she would prefer me to not “look like an old lady” just yet – and I respect her views and am happy to keep up with the red for now. The moment she realizes that grey is in, I’m all about unleashing my natural diamond highlights on the world!
It’s good to be 49. Believe that – and please don’t fear it. I promise that I wouldn’t choose youth and its firm flesh and supple skin over knowledge, awareness and self-love any day of the week.
How about you – do you have any good stories about turning 49 or whatever age you are now? And which decade have you preferred – 20s, 30s, 40s or beyond? I’m looking forward to my next adventure and I hope you are, too.