When people around my grandmother would begin talking about how hard getting older was, she’d usually pipe up and say, “When I consider the alternative..,” her eyes twinkling a bit.
Things are happening that make me more aware of getting older. For the first time the other day, I met someone new and their immediate question to me was, “Are you retired?” I felt kinda shocked and replied, “No, I haven’t given it any thought.” Then last weekend, as I was struggling with the new Amazon Prime app at our local grocery store, the young lady at the register abruptly took my phone and demonstrated what I was evidently inherently supposed to know how to do — or it felt like that in the moment. (Perhaps I’m growing more sensitive…)
She seemed to see me as quite feeble, scowling a little at me, although my husband and I were laughing at my efforts. He quipped, “Don’t worry. she’s not driving,” as I fumbled with the damn thing, trying several times to get it to work.
I walked away. Did I feel old in that moment because the clerk was impatient with my ignorance? My 20-something son and I have talked several times about technology and how his generation intuitively “gets” iPhones and online wizardry, while us Boomers (at least the ones that aren’t around tech constantly) have to think about it. But that’s a result of experience — not of age. He tried to use a FAX machine the other day and was totally flummoxed.
Facing anxiety about aging…
There are those that are acutely aware and seriously anxious about time passing. It’s a terrible anxiety because of the inherent helplessness you feel. Like Dorothy peering into the Wicked Witch of the West’s hourglass, the sand is always running out.
But there seem to be people who face all this ambiguity with nonchallance — others are too busy raising their kids’ kids or keeping food on the table for it to matter much.
So I asked the people in my Facebook group this question — when at any age were you aware of feeling older? Was it going into kindergarten? Was it when you reached double digits? Was it what was happening to you or what was happening to others around you that made you more aware of time? The group is mostly women from all over the world and with varied life experiences. All are members because they’re willing to give support to one another and are curious to learn more about themselves.
When Did (or Do) You Feel Old?
The answers I got were fun, poignant, inspiring and surprising.
“I think I’ve always been aware of wanting to be older, then younger!”
“When I went to the MD shortly after my 40th birthday and she kept taking about preventative treatments for ‘women my age.'”
“(At) 31. At the time it was really magnified for me that the company was listening to my ideas, using them & finding success! The reason why this was so tough for me was because I was a teenage mom (15 yo) and for years I was told to quit school & just be happy to find a husband and forget making anything out of my life. Instead, I graduated high school, finished college with a bachelors degree and was helping to make a difference in a multi-million dollar organization. Once I realized the people I associated with (work & personal life) didn’t see me as some irresponsible teenager that got pregnant and ruined her life – I realized I was no longer ‘a kid.’ I realized I was someone who had some extraordinary life experience and was able to turn that experience into an asset not a hindrance.”
“When some college girls danced by and said, ‘I hope I can have as much fun as you when I am your age!’ What!?!? We are just – oh yeah 38-40. Ugh.”
“Just recently in my 30s when my grandparent passed away. It made me realize that my parents are now really the oldest generation and then me.”
“It was my 30th birthday and my youngest sons 4th Birthday. We were taking big brother to school and were hit from behind pushed up into a car in front of us. No one was hurt and I had not been excited about turning 30. It seemed so old to me at the time. I quickly decided I was glad to be 30 and all that came with it LOL!”
“Mostly I think it was just not having ‘little kids’ anymore. But, in June our 1st grandson was born so all is good ❤️”
“I think I’m still in denial. Just turned 55.”
“The year I turned 40 was fabulous! It’s been the years since, that I haven’t lived happily that make the number seem sad.”
“I was aware in my 20’s but it only really hit me when I hit 30, and I realized I was looking for ‘the adult in the room’ then it hit me- I am an adult 🙄👀”
“Other people my age look at me and see one person doing the grown up stuff of two people! That must make me doubly grown up and responsible. My oldest child is now 18. And I still feel as silly inside as I did when I was her age and starting out in the world. I like to think this is why I can so readily access free spirited joy.”
“Something really cool about this point in my life is how much less I care about how others see me. This has been freeing for me in a lot of ways!”
“I looked older than my age at 13 so I had more friends older than myself. I did things I should not have at an early age and thought I was ‘grown.’ At 19 married and pregnant with my first child I realized I was not as old as I thought”.
“You look at the skin on your hands and it shows your life story. (I’m proud of my wrinkled hands it shows how hard I have worked).”
“My teenage daughter saw a recent photo of me w some HS friends, and asked who the old ladies were??? 🤔😂”
“When I was teaching middle school– I had my 27th birthday — and a student guessed that I was 45!😬. He said that’s how old his Mom was! Guess all adults were the same to him!”
“The first time I was aware of my age? I was three and a half. My local newspaper had featured a visiting ballet troupe on its front page, and I was struck by the ballerina’s strength and beauty. I immediately wanted to take ballet lessons and begged my parents to let me, but they told me I had to wait until I was five. Five seemed very old and forever away, so I tried to wear them down over the next year and a half to let me start sooner. But age five finally arrived and I started the lessons, and I was in a room full of girls at least two years older then me. I felt horribly young and physically awkward; I couldn’t keep up with the other girls. I didn’t even know how to tie my laces as I struggled alone in the locker room, quietly crying with embarrassment. Ultimately, I begged my parents to let me quit until I was older.”
“At 60 (it) hit me but I have really been cognizant and somewhat melancholy about my mortality. NOT that I am not beyond grateful and grounded in my faith but having grandchildren is a whole new level of “wanting” to live!!!!”
“At age 70, I’m finding I’m not as limber.”
“I also remember noticing a difference in the way people treated me as I progressed in my 40’s and I gained about 25 lbs which made it worse. I don’t know if it’s the weight gain or the age or the energy I was putting off but I don’t think I was imagining that difference.”
“At 50 -became aware of my mortality-my father died when I was 23, so I had experienced death, just never considered it might happen to me!”
“I feel that I’m moving into a different part of my life(awaiting menopause and life beyond) while my mother is passing into old age -theres a rebalancing of our relationship – Mother often asks for my opinion now and for reassurance-”
“At 25 it felt like I had not choice but to be a responsible adult and always take care of things and people, again at 35 I realized I wasn’t living the life I wanted and tried to make changes using others expectations, which of course did not work, 45 thought you have had 10 years to make the changes you want or need to make so get started and then I started making decisions based on me and turned my life upside down and it is now better than ever. Turned 55 last week and hardly even thought about it, I guess because I am trying to life my live for me and not have regrets.”
“30 was a big deal for me because I felt like it was a fresh start after a decade of self-hurt and heartache.”
I bet some of these ring true for you — they did for me. And what wisdom is there. Thank you all.
What is our age but a composite of our experience? When we create happiness, when we move out of a painful place, when we feel competent, when we accept our vulnerability, when we connect with gratitude, when we respect ourselves and others, when we realize our potential, when we mourn the losses we and others have experienced, when we maintain purpose, when we love and are loved — all of that can balance the aches, the wrinkles — even the ambiguity of not knowing.
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