I turned 28 on Saturday.
Apparently, that is supposed to mean something. Some metaphorical turning of the page.
Our society is rather preoccupied with youth, aging, not-appearing-to-be-aging, and physical decay.
It's bizarre, actually.
Besides stemming from a fear of death, why would aging be seen as such an awful thing?
If we are able to remove the deep-seated fear of death that most people carry, can we stop viewing birthdays as worrisome passage of time? What if we count our lives in lessons learned or experiences had? I want to keep track of fears overcome and the degree to which I have learned how to love. Those take time to accumulate, thus living (and aging) is beautiful progress.
We seem to assign certain expectations and common benchmarks to different ages, as if we are bound by these rules on a cellular level. Your choices are your own. You do not have to subscribe to the notion that you are ever too old to try new things, have adventures or make big life changes.
I find it exceptionally funny, if somewhat strange and even a bit disheartening, that we seem to do this to ourselves at such remarkably (and increasingly) young ages. I remember having a bit of a crisis at turning 22.
At the time, I felt as though I had surpassed all of the birthdays where I had new allowances to look forward to. 16 and a driver's license, 18 and a legal adult, 21 and legal to drink alcohol...they were all behind me. On top of it, with every passing 20-something year I was feeling stressed about meeting expectations that I had set out for myself.
I was not yet working a job I loved. I wasn't where I wanted to be financially. And since I am attempting to do artistic and entrepreneurial things, there have been very few ways to measure my strides towards those goals. I felt frustrated and lost.
Which is exactly why each birthday was vexing. It brought up the disconnect between my previous expectations and my reality.
It was all in my mind.
I invented the problem and I could just as easily allow for the solution.
Once I let go of my associations between a number and my story about what that represented, everything shifted.
This is a relatively recent realization. 26 is probably when I started to recognize that I was being rather unkind to myself and perhaps I should cut it out. Granted, this isn't like switching on a light; where once it's on it's on. I still ponder about my age and my life each April, but these days I am able to (mostly) be an observer of the moment.
Okay, so I do wonder if I'm starting to look older. I am firmly in my LATE twenties now. I still get carded at bars, but I have been curious about how my appearance has changed over the 8 years that I have been in my twenties. Luckily for me, Photo Booth exists.
If you were to look at Photo Booth on my computer (the made-for-selfie's application on Mac laptops) I would look incredibly narcissistic. And that makes me laugh. The good news about having yearly selfie sessions (that normally stay for-my-eyes only) is that it is a wonderful exercise in aging.
Below, for your viewing pleasure (and perhaps just for a good laugh at my expense) is a collage of various computer selfie's from the past 8 years all mixed up. Besides the hilarious observation that I clearly prefer one side of my face to the other, and that I like to either prop up my chin or my hair with my hand, I think that it is remarkably hard to arrange the correct chronological order.
Despite the overly self-involved nature of selfies, I think I will continue to have a solo Photo Booth session annually. I think it will be an interesting way to track myself over time and have some fun with the aging process.
Even making this collage has been surprisingly self-affirming. A welcome reminder that the passage of time is both compelling and rather unworthy of our apprehension.
Yes, I recognize that this is a collage of my twenties, not a collage spanning over multiple decades into middle age, but since I had already begun to agonize over possible unwanted changes, it is good to remember that the voices in my head that like to self-criticize are dumb.
When I'm 50, I hope to enjoy looking at my appearance from over the ages and see the beauty in each passing year. Hopefully, I will think back to the moments in my twenties when I thought unkind things about my appearance, remember how ridiculous that was, have a good laugh, and admire my wonderful laughter lines; appreciating that I had a marvelous time creating those creases.
And then I hope that when I'm 90, I look back on my appearance into my senior years, still seeing the beauty, and think back to when I was 50 and thought that I had laughter lines. But no, oh no, little did I know how much more laughter I still had ahead of me to really make them stick.