I spent a good part of my early fifties in denial. I hadn’t yet realized that worth was greater than youthfulness. When I got ready for work in the morning, I saw the same face in the mirror that I’d always seen. I also felt years younger than my actual age. (Apparently, a lot of us feel this way.)
When I first experienced discrimination or different treatment from others because of my age, I was taken by surprise. In my mind, I was still fairly young.
The Myth that Our Greatest Value is Our Youthfulness
It wasn’t until I saw myself on television that I was able to view myself in a different light. My skin wasn’t so tight anymore. I could see that my chin line was beginning to soften, and lines around my eyes were more pronounced than I had realized. I was getting older.
Over the next few years, I did everything I could to fight the natural process of aging. I bought expensive anti-aging products, had a couple of chemical peels, and tried all kinds of facial exercises that were supposed to tighten my skin. I watched what I ate, exercised regularly, and continued to believe that I could somehow cure myself of the dreaded aging ‘disease’ that was afflicting me. I even considered plastic surgery at one point.
I had allowed myself to buy into the anti-aging myth – the myth that advertisers promote by trying to convince us that aging is something unnatural and can only be treated with expensive products and treatments.
Becoming a Person: Discovering real Worth
After a period of denial, I finally had to address the fact that I was facing a major life transition; I was entering a new phase of my life. As one of my friends suggested, as our youthful phase ends a new chapter begins. It is then that we finally get to become ‘persons’ rather than individuals carrying out roles that are expected of us.
I think that as we start preparing for our next chapter, it’s like going through a refining process in a way. All that is no longer important becomes like dross that must be removed until only the pure gold remains.
For me, some of that dross from my earlier years included youthful insecurities about how I looked and what I could do to impress others. It also included responsibilities and activities that are no longer part of m life.
I am now 67. I am focused on writing the next chapter of my life. I don’t have to worry about the same things as I did when I was younger. I want to mine for the gold that I have held inside for so long. I want to use whatever resources I have to make a difference in this world – even if it is in a very small way.
Life has become finite. I won’t live forever. Understanding this truth has been a gift. I want to make the most of however many years or decades I might have ahead of me.