As I have reached my late twenties and I and many members of my social circle inch closer to 30 I am noticing a common theme. People mourning reaching the end of this period of life, people beginning to get anxious about each subsequent birthday that takes them further away from the alleged golden years of their early twenties. It’s not very surprising. We all exist in a culture that fetishises youth, especially in women. Middle aged women are often invisible and when they are represented they are often irrelevant or dealing with their irrelevance. For women age is something we are raised to fear because with it comes the loss of our looks and looks are the only important thing about us. It is hard not to angst over the fading of youth when you receive hundreds of little reminders every day that it is the most important thing about you. For many women we are told that youth is something that must be preserved at all costs, this fear fuels a number of multi-million dollar industries.
For me personally I am grateful. I would not go back to my early twenties if you paid me. They were some of the most difficult and painful years of my life. I learnt a lot but I am extremely glad to be on the other side of them. Life hasn’t gotten worse, it has only gotten better. I know who I am as a person, I have largely shed the crippling insecurity that tormented me for much of my life, most of all though, I know what I deserve and how I want to be treated by those around me. These are lessons I would never give up for less wrinkles around my eyes and the ability to stay up all night partying and then make it for an 8am start the next day. The shape of my life is changing and I’m OK with that. It isn’t getting worse, it has only gotten better.
I guess as we age, it stops feeling as though that the world is our oyster and we can do anything if we just set our mind to it. Obviously not everyone feels that way to begin with and it is a privilege in it’s own right, many of us grow up knowing the world is not our oyster and that just surviving to old age will be an accomplishment in an of itself. Let’s not forget that the ability to get old is a privilege that requires amongst other things peace and security, access to decent food, housing and medical care. For many it also requires a society that values your life, as evidenced by the many many shootings of people of colour in the USA that have gained public notice over the last few months. I take each year that I have on this earth as a blessing because I know that not only are there no guarantees but ageing is a privilege that I am afforded that is denied to so many the world over.