Some Things Do Get Better With Age

by Caroline

The other night, some friends and I were discussing getting older, and a few of us concluded that our 30’s were pretty great, compared with our angst filled 20’s.

I just turned 31. While it’s kind of sad on one level – my best years physically are behind me – there are some great things about getting a little older.

1. I’m not as consumed with my looks. When I was in my teens and twenties, I was convinced the whole world was looking at me all the time. I wouldn’t leave the house without makeup. I was constantly checking myself out in the mirror. I was hyper aware of how people might be perceiving me. And I was so critical of my body. Now of course, I look back and I wish I could give myself a big fat kick in the pants. There were several years in which I didn’t even own a swimsuit, because I didn’t think my body was perfect enough to be displayed publicly in one. Idiot! I probably missed out on a lot of fun because of my inability to accept myself.

2. I’m not treated as a sex object (as much). There’s something liberating about being able to pass by construction workers or other groups that sometimes react verbally to women passing by and have them ignore me or respectfully say hello. I can also smile and be nice and not really have to worry about them thinking that I’m flirting with them. Particularly if I have E in tow – apparently having a kid and a wedding ring can help ward off some obnoxious verbal signals.

3. I’m smarter. I know how to do things now. I remember being a teen and thinking that if my mom died, I would have no idea how to cope with life. I didn’t know how to cook, how to pay bills, how to get around an airport, how to apply to college or jobs, how to diaper a kid. Now I know. And even my book intelligence seems to be increasing, if I compare my old GRE score to my new one.

4. I’m less self-conscious. As I alluded to in number 1, I’m just not as consumed with my physical self. Now I don’t care as much about the imperfections of my body. (Full disclosure: I do still care to some extent.) But I stuff my soft self into my bathing suit, show massive cleavage, and figure that if someone is looking at me, that’s their problem, not mine. Likewise, I’m more willing to speak up and speak my mind. I would have shrunk from that in my earlier years.

5. I’m learning to accept myself. I spent a great deal of time in my twenties mentally kicking myself for my inability to fit into a typical Mormon mold. I felt guilty that I just couldn’t get over the polygamy thing. I felt bad that I had such a negative reaction to the idea of men presiding over women both in church and in family. I was consumed with angst over my gut wrenchingly tearful reaction to the portrayal of women in the endowment ceremony. I thought there was something really wrong with me. I’m over that now. I embrace my issues, and I proudly claim my gifts of conscience and discernment. They make me me. God knows my heart, and I now figure that God and I are probably on the same page on a lot of these issues.

What has been your experience with getting older? What are the positives and negatives?

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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17 Responses

  1. Jessawhy says:

    Caroline,
    Great post. Getting older has actually stressed me out since I was in elementary school. Even though I was never super trendy (and neither was my mother), I always worried about how my clothes would look in the future, how out-of-style I would be.
    It makes me laugh now, actually. 🙂

    In the end, I am still resisting getting older. At 28, I’m just beginning to realize that my 20s are almost over. Where did they go? Is life going to go faster from here on out? That’s a little scary for me. I also sense the end of my childbearing years (by choice, of course) and that makes me a little sad. I feel like I just started that part of my life.

    I do feel like I know myself a little better, but I identify with the angst you described in your twenties. I’m still a little angsty.

    Getting older also means I’ve learned to appreciate the experiences of others in a new way. I try to learn from and empathize with people in a way that I couldn’t do as a self-absorbed teen (or newlywed).

    I hope that as I get older, I will become kinder and more forgiving. Good reminder, Caroline.

  2. Tacy says:

    perhaps, as i approach 27, i am not old enough to comment here, but i certainly know i am old for my demographic: the young single adult population of the church.

    marriage in the church often acceptably happens between the ages of 18 and 23-24 but after 24 the most common question you get asked by potential dates is not “what do you do for a living?” but “why arent you married already?” as if a 25+ single individual has somehow been proved to be a ‘bad apple’ with age. its the assumption that by 25 or 26 all the good ones already got picked.

    in my personal life i also feel an alarming sense of under-accomplishment for this age. i will find out in a few weeks if i have qualified for a spot in a university nursing program, and in December i will be receiving my Associates Degree (good ole community college) nearly 8 and a half years after i graduated from HS. i have accomplished other things in those years, but not the things that society anticipates you having achieved. and i guess to some degree i align with society. i feel like if i knew at 18 i would still be single and going to school at 27, i wouldn’t have waffled as much over career choice, i would have just put my head down and gotten through med school. ahh, blessed hindsight.

    since becoming permanently addicted to the show sex and the city, i have long looked forward to my thirties, as they are soo glamourized by that new york back drop. but the reality, i have a hunch, might be much better in some ways.

    looking toward my late twenties and thirties, i feel i know myself much better, i am accepting of many of my flaws, and even better the miss steps of my early twenties have left me with a large sharply accurate memory with which i draw enormous amounts of empathy for those who experience what i have, regardless of age. its as if i am a real person now, whereas at 22, i was just pretending to be.

    so, all in all, dating education and mistakes aside, i fall on the end of enjoying aging. i believe i have only ever gotten really better with time.

    caroline, thanks for your post.

  3. elizabeth-w says:

    I’ll be 40 in 8 months. When I was 37 thought that was the perfect age. I think this is still that perfect time, for all the reasons you listed. Also, it was when I started to feel professionally solid. As a therapist at 25, I felt very inadequate to give advice to people trying to raise teenagers. Now, with my grey hair, I look like I know what I’m talking about. And I do love my grey. I’ve still got a lot more pepper than salt, but I love every single white hair that comes in–for the first time in my life I like my hair, as is.
    Negatives–perimenopause is here with a vengeance. Both my mother and maternal grandmother were both menopausal by 40 and I’m thinking I’m there. It’s not pretty.

  4. Caroline says:

    Jess, well, my angst hasn’t disappeared exactly, but it’s less. I think it’s because I’ve learned to emotionally distance myself from those things that hurt me so much in the past. Good point about sympathizing with others. I think that’s true for me as well – my vision has really expanded. I sympathize beyond my circle and now am able to think of people in far distant countries with a great deal more concern than I ever used to have.

    Tacy, thanks for sharing your perspective. You bring up an important issue – how a person perceives aging when they are single. I’m glad that you are seeing yourself getting better as a person. Sometimes I wonder if I am getting better… my newfound ability to stand up and speak out mean that I’m not always as sweet and nice as I used to be when I was 20.

    ElizabethW, Now I’m looking forward to 37! If I go through with a PhD, that’s probably how old I’ll be when I finish. I also love the fact that you love your silver hair. And thanks for the warning about perimenopause 🙂

  5. gladtobeamom says:

    I would say my age but I forget exactly how old I am and it would take me to long to do the math. I gained a year when I turned 28 because I already thought I was 28.

    Being some where in my mid thirties I think I have finally grown up. I have accepted myself and will even go out in a bathing suit with my less then great body and not care what others think. Though I am like the author, I wish I would have done this in my twenties when I actually had a great body but didn’t realize it.

    I finally know who I am and no longer mold myself to please others. I have learned to be less judgmental of myself and others.

    It is funny to wake up and realize how much I didn’t know at 25. It was the age at which I thought I knew every thing. I guess there is something to be said for experience.

    The only negative I can think of is my diminishing energy. I faithfully exercise and take care of myself yet I still find I am so tired and don’t have the energy I had just 5 years ago. It really frustrates me. There is so much I still want to do.

  6. Kalola says:

    I’m a proud 56 year old baby boomer.

    My life experiences have made me the
    woman I am today. Lots of ups and
    downs and twists and turns. I’m still
    living life one day at a time.

    What I often chuckle about is how some
    women look upon 30 or 40 as getting
    older. I joke about if 60 is the new
    40, then 40 is the new 20, and 20 year
    olds haven’t been born yet. 🙂

    Cue Helen Reddy singing “I Am Woman” …
    I am wise, I am strong, I am invincible.

  7. FoxyJ says:

    I’ve always been somewhat overweight, nerdy, and out of style, so I didn’t think turning 30 would be a big deal. It actually really wasn’t, but I do feel very different from my early 20s. I am certainly less self-conscious, and that could be because I’m married and have kids. But I have also run into other moms my age who are still way too self-conscious about their appearance. I feel so much more calm about things and less obsessed with checking off the “right things” from a list. Instead I feel much more confident in my abilities than I used to. I’m starting a PhD this fall, and while I feel nervous with starting at a new school and all, I’m realizing all the things I do know. I feel much better about myself than I did as a freshman in college and it makes me feel good to realize that.

  8. Jim Cobabe says:

    Youth is wasted on the young. People who lament about growing older who are still so young make me laugh. You ain’t seen nothin, yet. Aging is very painful, and only just barely beats the alternative.

  9. Jessawhy says:

    Jim,
    You make a good point. I don’t want you to think that I think I’m old, I know I’m not.
    But, it is important to recognize that life is moving forward and what we have learned and what we want to learn.

  10. Margaret says:

    I’m 63, a wife, Mom to 3 and Grandma to 8. I think I was born to be a Grandma. The aches & pains are here and I move a lot slower than I used to, but it’s still a great time of life. My goal is to live to see my grandchildren raised. The youngest is 2.

  11. elizabeth-w says:

    Margaret wins! Or maybe Jim, who didn’t give his age. I’m not looking forward the years my girls are teenagers, but I think being 55+ will be really fantastic.

  12. EmilyCC says:

    Jim, I agree with Jessawhy–we’re certainly not old, but I do find it helpful to look back and reflect on what I’ve learned. And, while I’m certainly not one of them, I do think there are young people who have lived through unspeakable suffering. (I wish I could also add that there are old people who have been able to coast through life, but if there are, I haven’t met one yet! You’re right, aging does look hard!)

    One thing I’ve learned recently in relation to the Church is that I’m there to serve, even if my work doesn’t always feel as “good” as someone else’s. I used to try to do a lesson as well as so-and-so or plan an activity as cute as so-and-so. Now, I realize there’s value in a good ol’ EmilyCC lesson, even though it doesn’t have a handout or an object lesson :). We all have different contributions to put forth.

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  13. Kiri Close says:

    this post is awesome.

    i’m 35 now, and for the most part the ‘fun’ I felt at 13 is still in me, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve been less embarrassed to keep it (like, since I was 14–lol!!).

    In an adult world that needs me to work to ‘accomplish’ so much (e.g., grad school, professorship, law school bound,etc.), I seriously counter with more play time(some rite of passage, maybe/sadly?). Not so much an irony for me, but an inherent balance (usually imbalanced).

    Ironically, I’m hoping that I have matured out of some 13 year-old superficiality, yet kept said youthful playfulness…I hope.

  14. Kiri Close says:

    36 now (on Feb. 28), & still a crazy, pain-in-the-ass. I love me.

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