Earlier this week, I was flipping through the San Francisco Chronicle on my lunch break when an obituary caught my eye. Why am I talking about death in the week when I’m celebrating my birth? Well, hear me out.
This woman who’d died exactly a week after her 95th birthday was described as a “lifelong progressive, feminist and world traveler” — she sounded like a person I could’ve been friends with and a person who’d lived her life with purpose. Intrigued, I continued reading.
The obituary went on to say that after 40 years of homemaking and after her husband passed away, she started to fulfill her lifelong dream to travel the world. “At age 72, she she began a series of adventures around the globe, visiting 17 European countries, Mexico, South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina and both poles, and nearly two dozen states in 19 years.”
While I personally take a “travel while you’re young” approach, I love to hear about and know women who are a testament to the fact that age doesn’t have to prevent you from doing what you want to do.
My own mother is one of those women. At the age of 56, she has very recently begun a Peace Corps assignment in Namibia. A few people I talked to about it assumed that the Peace Corps was only for straight out of college young people. It’s not. To me, in a time when people haphazardly sign up to volunteer abroad, she is an ideal candidate — someone who had a Peace Corps teacher as a child, someone who grew up in an African country, and most importantly, someone who has lived.
A couple days ago, I entered the last year of my twenties. Among females I know who are around the same age, there seems to be a bit of a divide between those who’ve hit the 30 mark and those for whom it is rapidly approaching. Those who’ve reached 30 and beyond have told me they’ve realized it’s not as bad as they feared it would be and in a few cases, it turned out to be exactly the transition that they needed. With a few exceptions, the women I know who are under 30 are fearful about entering their next decade.
It’s such a big part of female culture in the United States to look at age beyond the 20s as just an ending rather than a transition that contains both endings and beginnings. And those beginnings and endings can be both good and bad. Sure, as we age, unwelcome changes begin to happen to our appearances. But also with living, truly living, you can acquire the perspective and self assurance that is required to feel good about yourself despite what you think others think about you.
And that is a major gift of living fully and getting older — the increased ability to know yourself and grow into yourself and love yourself as you are. This gift is available to everyone, but not everyone receives it. In order to receive it, you have to be open to it, be aware of it, want it, take the initiative to find it.
I’d like to end this post with a video I came across the other day about some fearlessly fashionable older women in New York who display their personalities and creativity through their outfits:
“Young women, you’re going to be an old woman some day. Don’t worry about it. Don’t sweat it. Don’t worry about getting older. Every era… it builds character.”