My grandmother once told me she still felt like a young girl. She was 85 at the time.
Her body was slowly failing her. She had eyes that hindered her beloved book consumption. A hip that no longer supported her small frame. Fingers twisted by arthritis.
But her mind was sharp.
I can still see the youthful twinkle in her eye and the sweet curve of her smile amid the wrinkles. I don’t know what age she imagined to be, but I suppose it was decades, maybe half a century younger than 85.
And just recently, I started to get it.
One morning, the smile lines framing my mouth suddenly became permanent. Like, wrinkles. “Fine lines,” as dubbed by the anti-aging cream commercials I’ve ignored for years.
I swear my hairline – the top of a thick mane for as long as I can remember – is secretly thinning or turning white. A recent shoulder strain didn’t bounce back into shape without physical therapy. And any time my hip hurts, I feel geriatric.
The answer to the many ache-and-pain questions I ask at the doctor’s office? “You’re around the age that starts happening.”
The aging reminders are everywhere. Most professional athletes are younger than I am. The babies I watched as a teenager are having babies. Scrolling for my birth year in an online form feels like playing the slots.
I catch onto trends just as they are going out of style. I asked my husband the other day if a new swimsuit made me look mom-ish. He replied, “You are a mom, so…” I didn’t know how to take that.
My mind says I’m in my late 20s. My birth certificate and joints say otherwise.
Though our hair may thin and our jowls (amongst other things) may fall, we simultaneously shed the stuff that no longer matters. There is peace in letting go of trying to be who we once were. There is strength in embracing who we’re becoming instead.
I bought the straight-leg jeans, but I’ll probably still wear the skinnies. I’ve retired a few dance moves, but I’ll still be rocking the dance floor at weddings. I’m starting to use the creams to soften my age, but I want to embrace the lines that show years of smiles.
More importantly, the happiness I once sought in the social scene matured into the joy I discovered in simple family moments. My passion for making a difference in the world evolved from big volunteer events into raising kind, responsible young men and giving back in small ways. My youthful preoccupation with how my body looks shifted to an understanding of what makes my body strong.
I’m not who I was at 18, but I’d like to think I’m a better version now.
I don’t know what “age” I’ll settle into as my body continues to change. But I hope to have that same youthful twinkle my grandma revealed as she held my hands in hers, wrinkled from a life well lived.