As I approach 30, I’ve been thinking about all the ways people use the phrase “aging gracefully.” If it’s a person who is conventionally attractive, people usually mean that they’ve managed to somehow stay attractive, either through genetics or through a careful regimine of healthy activities and diet. If they’re not conventionally attractive or some kind of celebrity, people usually mean that they’re not fighting the process or trying to hold on to their passing youth.
As someone whose youth absolutely sucked and who has put a lot of effort into reclaiming any parts of it I want to appreciate, I’m not really sure where I’m going to fall on this spectrum. I have no desire to return to the life I lived as a child but I also have no concept of what youthfulness means outside of this context. At the same time, I still enjoy a lot of things people associate with youth, like Pokémon, cartoons, and the word “butt.” Partly because I didn’t get to enjoy simple pleasures as a kid and partly because fun stuff is fun and I’ve learned to never take myself too seriously.
If you can’t laugh at the word “butt” when it’s used in a non-offensive, humorous way, then I guess I’m sorry? It must suck to be that humorless.
But(t) I’m getting older despite how I behave and now I have to deal with stuff like back problems and the noise my knees make as I climb the stairs. I can’t eat dairy the way I used to before without feeling like trash for multiple days (I’ve always been lactose intolerant, but cheese and pizza used to be worth the consequences). I’m more aware than ever when I’ve gotten a bad nights’ sleep. Aging is undeniable and it is the unfortunate reality of everyone trapped in our fuzzy meat prisons that things start to degrade more the longer you survive.
Still, I appreciate what time has brought me, even if the cost is knee problems. I’ve managed to live a life I never imagined could be mine when I was growing up. It definitely isn’t the one I wanted. Things certainkly didn’t play out how I thought they would, but I can appreciate the good I have even if it isn’t the dream I had when I imagined life away from my parents and elder brother. I may still be swamped by student debt and caught up in the cycle of debt, rent, and poverty-adjacent living so common to people in the lower middle class, but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel and my life taught me the patience I need to work my way through this period.
Honestly, if it weren’t for the whole pandemic thing and how that set back my financial/life plans, I’d be in a really good place right now. I’m still in a pretty good place, at least compared to my past. Objectively, it’s not really that good, but life and experience are subjective and I’ve put a lot of work into being able to appreciate my day-to-day existence. It is worth appreciating, after all. I’ve cut myself off from my abusers, managed to develop healthy relationships with the family members that are worth my time, and learned a lot of important lessons about advocating for my own needs or asserting my own value (even if I’m only asserting it to myself).
They say that age brings wisdom and, ignoring the evidence to the contrary all over the world these days, I’d say I mostly agree. At the very least, it has brought me appreciation, and there’s a lot of wisdom in learning how to use that properly.