Monday, November 19, 2018

Getting Old and Getting Wise

It has become a running joke (with myself) to mutter “I’m old” as a response to literally anything and everything these days.

“I fell asleep while reading and went to bed at 9pm last night. I’m so old.”

“Go out in the city?! On a weeknight???? I’m too old!”

“I stay in on Friday nights because I’m too stressed and tired from the week. I’m old.”

“Ugh, so much drama in your friend group… I’m too old for that shit.”

The truth is that it has nothing to do with being old, and everything to do with my personality. I was never a fan of late nights and have always preferred staying in and watching cheesy Christmas movies. My age has nothing to do with it.

Yes, I’m aging. That is just a fact. But my body is actually stronger than it’s ever been (due to actually working out) and my mind is a hell of a lot sharper (probably because of all the podcasts I listen to.) The older I get the more I realize that the pain of getting older isn’t about the aches in the body or the hangovers that are actually significantly worse. It’s about the knowledge we gain from the experiences we’re forced to go through.

To be fair, I’m a 32-year-old single, white female with no children so my life lessons are likely much different than others my age, or in general. Yet, I still think the toughest part of growing up is not our sagging skin or aching bones. It’s the shit we have to experience.

But what makes me feel old is all the shit I know now that I didn't know back then. 

Such as:  

Everyone's path is different. Sometimes, our friends look like they’re more successful than us because they’re married, or having children, or have higher titles, or are working out all the time, etc. I often get so caught up in comparing myself to others without thinking of the fact that our lives, priorities, values, industries, etc. ARE ALL DIFFERENT. How can I compare myself (a facilitator in the sports industry, or HR Manager, or improv comedian) to my friend who is a dental hygienist or public information officer for a police department?

Or, when I was performing, I would look at other people’s success as my own failure. At the same time, I was doing NOTHING to further my own career. I wasn’t taking any classes, I wasn’t trying to get representation, I wasn’t creating my own material, I wasn’t networking AT ALL. I would do shows here and there and created a web series with my friends. But my own lack of hustle/interest in my career was why I was “failing.” Eventually, I realized that I didn’t even really want it all that much… so why was I upset that I didn’t have something that I didn’t want?

Sometimes we have to go backward to go forward. When I realized the above (that I didn’t want to be an actor in Los Angeles), I moved back to Boston because I re-organized my priorities. Doing that meant nearly starting over and taking a step down in my career in order to get where I wanted. It feels like a total failure at the time but straightens itself out over time.

Patience. Speaking of time, patience is a bitch of a lesson to learn. I’m a fast-paced girl in a slow AF world. When I get ideas, I want to act on them RIGHT THEN AND THERE. When I want something, I want it then. But other people aren’t on my schedule, and pizzas don’t need to be ordered for dinner every single night. Raises will come, higher titles will come, people need to grieve, medication will eventually work, exercising will pay off, people will calm down, etc. I can’t control anything and I need to stop giving up when things don’t go my way in a timely manner.  

We need to respect (and believe) what other people want, and what we want. When someone gets mad at me, I have fought and fought until they responded or liked me again. A strategy that has never been successful, or made me feel good about myself. So I stopped doing it. When someone tells me what they want, I need to respect their feelings and stop fighting for them to change their views. If someone doesn’t like me, I can’t make them like me.

And for that matter, I need to be honest about what I want, respect what I want and clearly communicate what I want. I can’t keep ignoring what I want in the hope that someone will eventually come around.

We need to take accountability. When we hurt people, whether it was our intention or not, we need to accept responsibility and apologize.

And finally (for now), “that’ll never happen to me” doesn’t exist. I’ve been drugged and sexually assaulted. My best friend has had skin cancer. My aunt had breast cancer. My father had a heart attack. My ex-boyfriend went completely blind in his early twenties. My cousin committed suicide. Friends have died of drug overdoses.

Horrible things don’t just happen to other people. They happen to us, too. We need to take care of ourselves, make the best decisions we can, and also be more generous with ourselves and other people when things go wrong.

There are things we can control, and things we can’t. There is no use in blaming other people, making judgments or excuses, but there’s also no use for getting defensive and beating ourselves up. We need to accept that things happen to all of us, and the people we’re close to.

We just need more empathy. Just because we haven’t experienced something ourselves, why can’t we understand other people’s points of view? Why do we have to judge other people who are going through something we literally know nothing about? It just doesn’t feel productive to me.

For example, sometimes I listen to true crime podcasts and think, “I would have definitely been able to fight that guy off!” Sure, I have horribly weak arms, but my legs are as strong as tree trunks. I’d claw him with my nails! I’d throw him off with my charm and wit!

Uh, not likely. I have no idea what would happen if I were faced with the same situation as those women. I could have the strongest tree trunk legs in the world, and a whole escape plan in my mind, but it doesn’t mean I’d survive. After all, even trees are sometimes uprooted by the strongest of winds.

So, yes, I’m old! Old but strong! Old but tired. I look back on my 22-year-old self and laugh at that person who thought she knew so much but had no idea what she was going to go through. I’m sure when I’m 42, I’ll look back on my 32-year old self and laugh at her for writing this post when she was about to go through so much harder shit.

But that’s the point. The lessons we learn through LIVING make us older, but wiser. Stronger, but exhausted. And hopefully better equipped to handle the more life we must go through. But life is still going to surprise and shatter us. The biggest tool we need is compassion for ourselves, and others, to get through it.

So, no, I still won’t go out in the city ON A WEEKNIGHT. But if you want to do that… more power to you! I understand where you’re coming from!

(No, that I still don’t understand.)

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