10 Reasons Why Growing Up Doesn’t Actually Suck

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that our modern society values youth very highly.  Turn on the TV or flip through any magazine & you will be greeted with a veritable host of ads showcasing products that proclaim they can “erase wrinkles,” “cover up greys,” or “give you the energy of youth,” etc, etc.  In the media we are constantly assaulted with pictures of young hot celebrities & on a more day-to-day level we inevitably hear people making comments about how much getting old & growing up sucks.  Since graduating from college I have even noticed a difference in the things I see on Facebook.  I now see a lot of statuses about how much “real life” sucks & there seems to be a ridiculous amount of nostalgia going around for the innocence & simplicity of childhood.  Now I for one spent a great deal of my childhood & adolescence pining for adulthood & the freedoms it would bring.  Perhaps in some ways it’s sad that I didn’t just enjoy my life to the fullest at those stages as I suppose most kids/teens do.  But I have to say that even though being an adult is hard, I for one am not disappointed at all.  I am happier now than I’ve ever been.  One of my greatest goals in life is to always retain the energy & vibrancy of youth while balancing this with the wisdom & serenity of getting older.  So today I thought I’d compile a list of reasons why growing up doesn’t actually suck.  In truth there are a lot of things I LOVE about getting older & I think our society could certainly use a reminder of these things from time to time, so here we go:

growing up

  1. Growing up means no longer having to obsess over every facet of your appearance.  I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but when I was a teenager I spent entirely too much time worrying about every tiny bit of my appearance.  If even one hair was out of line, I was sure I looked horrible & that everyone was secretly laughing at me.  Though I’ve never been the type to really follow fashion trends, I still felt the need to be as “in style” as possible.  Well, one of the great things about getting older is the ability to just not give a crap about such things.  And to know that you are better off because of it.  I don’t mean that I don’t care about looking my best; I certainly do.  But if I have a “bad hair day” or a day when my acne is acting up & making my face look like a teenager’s all over again, I have the maturity to know that this too shall pass.  I also know that if anyone thinks less of me for not wearing the trendiest clothes or not having perfect skin or anything superficial like that, then those people aren’t worth worrying about anyway.  I’m far from the confident person I hope to be someday but I’ve also come a long way from the girl I used to be, & I’m proud of that.
  2. Growing up means realizing that your mom was right when she said it was more important to be respected than to be liked.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m a born people-pleaser.  It just comes naturally to me to want to make others happy & to be well-liked by everyone.  But I have learned to temper that when necessary because I have discovered that it truly is impossible to please everyone all the time.  And that’s ok.  It’s just life.
  3. Stemming from the last point, getting older means having the courage to say no to people who are just trying to use you to their own advantage.  It means having enough self-respect to not waste your valuable time on people who don’t actually care about you.  Getting older means realizing that your worth is not diminished by those who do not recognize or appreciate you.  This gives you the confidence to say no to those who do not actually have your best interests at heart.
  4. Getting older means not having to panic every time something doesn’t go “your way.”  It means realizing that just because you’ve had a bad day or even a bad week, month, or year, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to have a bad life.  And getting older means realizing that your attitude is the greatest determinant in your own happiness.  (This is both scary & enlightening.  I could write a whole blog post on this subject & I probably will soon.)
  5. Getting older means learning how to agree to disagree.  It means building friendships with people who are vastly different from you & instead of trying to “convert” them you are content to learn from each other & use your differences to build a stronger relationship.
  6. Getting older means independence.  Ah, what a glorious word!  This is what I longed for so much as a child.  I know most people end up regretting such longings because they say the price of freedom is too great.  But I disagree.  I think if you make good decisions in life, you will set yourself up for success & you’ll be able to reap the rewards of independence to the fullest.  I love that as an adult I can choose my career, my spouse, where I live, what house to buy, what to wear, who to be friends with, where to go to school, what to eat, basically everything!
  7. Growing up means realizing that there is no one right way for everyone in life.  There’s nothing more freeing than understanding that there is no exact prescription for success that every person must follow.  Growing up means having the freedom to make mistakes & learn from them.
  8. Growing up means realizing that sometimes life sucks.  It means looking evil in the face & realizing that this world is a cold & scary place.  (That wasn’t supposed to rhyme…)  I know this must seem like a bad thing.  And it’s this loss of innocence that so many people mourn so greatly.  But I’ve never understood why people celebrate innocence so much.  It’s nothing more than an illusion.  For of what value is happiness if it’s based on something that is fake?  To me that’s what “innocence” is.  It’s the happiness that comes from not realizing how bad the world can really be.  I think the happiness we can experience as adults is all the greater because we have had to see so many of the dark sides of life too.  Which is of greater value: the happiness of a child who does not yet understand the world or the happiness of an adult who has looked into the pit of hell, faced the monsters of the world, & come out alive?  Maybe I was a weird child (ok, who am I kidding, I was DEFINITELY a weird child for a number of reasons), but I don’t ever remember feeling the type of blissfully ignorant happiness that people always talk about children experiencing.  In any case, I believe the happiness & love we can experience as adults is all the greater because it’s a real choice.  We have chosen to seek joy even though we have seen that life is often cruel & unfair.  We have chosen to seek peace even though we know that life can be violent to even the meekest of us.  This thought process requires a bit of mental gymnastics at times but I truly believe I am happier now than I’ve ever been.  Yes, I have days when I look at the world & feel like there’s no hope.  But those days aren’t the norm & when they do happen I have the wisdom to know those feelings will pass.  Whew, that was a deep one.
  9. Growing up means realizing that the journey is as important as the destination.  It means understanding that life is short & we truly must live every day like it’s our last, as cliché as that may be.
  10. Getting older means realizing that just because your life isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it isn’t great.  It’s so easy to look in the mirror & think “I’d be so much prettier if my nose were just a little straighter” or “I’d be so much happier if I could afford that fancy car I’ve always wanted” or any number of such things.  It’s so easy to compare yourself to your friends, coworkers, or even celebrities & feel like your life just doesn’t measure up.  But growing up means realizing that everyone’s life isn’t measured against the same yardstick.  We all have our own meter for success & happiness & that’s the only one that really matters.

 As an addendum, if anyone wants to help me create better titles for my blog posts, that would be awesome.  I like to think I’m a pretty decent writer but when it comes to creating titles for papers, essays, poems, or blog posts, I’m always at a loss, as you can clearly see by the super clever title of this post.  😉

I’m Not Afraid of Getting Old

Last week I traveled to Virginia to visit one of my best friends & attend a concert with her. After the concert as we were walking back to our cars we started talking about getting older & I told her something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I don’t fear getting older because to me it just seems like I’m “growing into my age.” To my great relief she completely agreed with me. (I’ve always said the way I know I’ve made a great friend is when they can relate to my weird ideas & thereby make me feel less crazy.)

age is just a number

Basically my whole life, certainly since I was 16 or thereabouts, people have always thought I’m older than I actually am. I remember during my first few weeks at college so many people were shocked when they discovered that I was only a freshman, & even as a nurse people always seem to assume I’m older & more experienced than I am. Quite a few people in my life, both my age & decades older than me, have told me that I have “an old soul.” I’ve always taken this as a compliment; some certainly meant it that way, others perhaps not.

I’m not really sure what point I’m trying to make with this post, but I see that our society is so focused on youth & constantly trying to fight or hide the signs of aging & I can’t help but feel that this has some deeper meaning. Let me be the first to admit that I know I’m going to freak out the first time I find a grey hair or notice a wrinkle on my face that isn’t from sleeping on the pillow wrong. It’s only natural to not want to be reminded of your own mortality & to want to look beautiful forever. And in our society, like most societies I suppose, young & beautiful are pretty much synonymous. (By this I mean youth does not necessarily equate to beauty but someone who is deemed beautiful is almost always young or “looks great for their age.”) But this constant obsession with looking young makes me inclined to believe that our society does not value the wisdom of old age; nor are we thankful for the opportunity to grow old.

Perhaps it comes with being a nurse but I don’t see getting older as something that should strike fear in our hearts. Even as a kid I had a pretty liberal view of aging. In fact as a child my sister & I used to say people were “getting old” in their 70’s but not actually old till their 80’s. As a nurse I’m constantly reminded that age is just a number & so many people can be “young” into their 80’s or even 90’s if their health is good & their attitude is right. Others can be “old” in their 40’s if they have poor health & a negative attitude toward life. It’s really all about perspective & understanding that life really is a gift. Again as a nurse I’m continually reminded that not everyone gets to live a long, healthy life. So to me the idea of getting older isn’t so scary, for as long as I have reasonably good health I hope I will see each new day as the gift it truly is.

I’m not blind so I know that getting older does have its own unique difficulties. But right now getting older for me just means my late 20’s & 30’s & hopefully becoming a parent some time in there. I know my attitude might change 20 or 30 years from now when getting older means arthritis, cataracts, & other age-related troubles. But for right now I have to say, unlike a lot of people, I’m not dreading turning 30 in a few years because honestly I think in my mind I’m already a bit older than my age says I am. I guess it goes back to that old soul thing because so much of the time I find myself feeling older than people my own age in the sense that I have different values about life or am simply at a different stage of life than many people my age. (I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant because I certainly don’t think I’m better than others.)

Lately I’ve seen several blog posts & articles about the self-confidence that comes with reaching your 30’s, & I have to say I can’t wait for that. I look around at people in their 30’s & up & I do feel like they are much less concerned with what everyone else thinks about them because they have learned to value themselves based on their own standards, making the opinions of the world therefore less a concern. I for one can’t wait for the day that I’m that confident!

I guess my point in writing all this is that each stage of life is of value & we shouldn’t rush through or regret any of them. You don’t have to be religious to believe that life is a gift & therefore we should cherish each day, each year, each decade & make the most of every one of them. I know our society has always joked that it’s impolite to ask a woman her age but I for one am proud of my age & plan to always be that way. I love the little old ladies who aren’t afraid to say “I’m 81 & proud of it!” I’m not saying it’s wrong to dye your hair to cover up the grey or to dress in more stylish clothes than the average person your age. Not at all. Indeed I love it when I see older people keeping up with modern technology & trends. But I also think our society needs to learn to value old age as much as it values youth & to realize that getting older isn’t a tragedy at all. It’s a gift.

I hope I will always seek to embody the best qualities of each stage of life. I aspire to never lose the magic & wonder of childhood, the passion & intensity of adolescence,  & the excitement & energy of young adulthood. As I age, I hope I can maintain all of these characteristics while also embracing the wisdom, diversity, & knowledge that come with getting older.