"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."
- Mark Twain
Upon entering my fourth decade a year and a quarter ago, I thought back on a time when I was a teenager and 40 just seemed so...OLD...to me. Back then I thought for sure by the time I was 40 I'd be married, with a couple kids, living in New Hampshire a stone's throw away from my aged parents. Now at 41, I'm single, childless and living 3000 miles away from parents who really aren't that aged. Clearly, God has another plan for me.
I hung out for the first time with a new friend yesterday. He is a dapper, young, up-and-coming musician with a bright smile and charming disposition. After a brief meeting the previous Saturday, we decided to get together for a getting-to-know-you beer and game of pool. Animated chitchat ensued and the subject eventually came around to age. After trying to laughingly divert him, I admitted I was 41. He nearly fell down in shock. You see, good genes and a lifelong obsession with moisturizing & SPF 50 have served me well. I don't look my age, nor do I act my age. When I ask people how old they think I am, I get guesses anywhere from 27-34.
It's ironic that when I was younger I used to loathe my baby face. I wanted to look as mature as my more sophisticated classmates. My mother used to tell me "Honey, don't worry. Someday you will appreciate that beautiful baby face!" Naturally, I thought she was crazy because moms have to say that stuff, but alas...Mother was right. Again.
(Side bar - I laugh now when I think back on an incident that happened with my mom in Target a few years ago. We were walking through the store joking about something, and I made a snarky comment that prompted a nearby woman to turn to my mother and say "I have a teenager myself at home, so I know what you are going through!". I was 35 at the time...)
In any event, my new friend shared with me he was feeling a little uncomfortable about turning 26. I mulled that over for a couple seconds and replied that I recalled that time in my 20s when I felt the same way....like time was slipping away from me and getting older was just a scary proposition. However, with each passing year I am more accepting of my age. I don't believe that I need to lie about the fact that I am 41, even if I don't look the part, just because of the perception that 40+ is "old".
And I certainly don't feel 41, which in itself can be a bit of a struggle. Speaking to my boss a couple years ago when I was still 30-something, he told me that things happen when you turn 40; people start taking you more seriously and have greater expectations of you. I have to say he was right. Particularly in my corporate life, I feel a certain amount of pressure to conform to how others think I should be acting and doing. It's certainly put me in a different place than I was just a few short years ago. That's not to say I am not up for the task, but it requires an adjustment in thinking, and how I approach my work. That being said, I absolutely refuse to cave completely to what I view as unrealistic expectations rooted in outdated societal standards.
At the end of the day, age really is nothing but a number. More importantly, how you choose to live your life is what really matters. Think young, be young. That's how it goes.