By Abby Langer, R.D.– Self
My periods are all messed up because my hormones are nuts. I have jiggly skin on my thighs and three dimples in my right butt cheek. For those of us who are used to looking a certain way, aging really throws a curveball.
I’m (redacted) years old, but let’s just say I’m over 40 and getting pretty sensitive to the term “middle-aged.” And while I’ve begun to see some, well, interesting signs of aging, I’ve realized that not everything about getting older is negative. In fact, there are a lot of non-tangible benefits to growing up, and they can make you a stronger, better, more self-aware person.
Here’s a list of the actual good things that have happened to me as I’ve gotten older.
- I give zero fucks.
I used to party like a rockstar. Now, I don’t even feel the FOMO; I’d rather get to bed at a decent hour than be out at the latest restaurant or parties. I bought a pair of furry slides, and I don’t give a crap if you like them. I’ve found that getting older has made me a lot more self-confident in my choices. At this age, peer pressure has ceased to exist, and that’s so freeing.
- I’ve cut out the dead weight from my #squad. (Is that what you young people say?)
I used to think the more friends I had, the better, but I don’t have the time or the motivation to deal with peoples’ high maintenance issues. I’ve cut those people from the team and added others who challenge me intellectually, who nourish my soul, and who are solid friends, not needy time suckers. My time is precious. Why waste it with people who annoy me?
- I know my strengths, my weaknesses, and what I’m capable of.
I’ve gone through horrible breakups, the loss of a parent, and the births of two children. I’ve bought and sold houses, started my own business, and cleaned up chunky kid vomit from a comforter cover. With my hands. I’ve been rejected, sweared at, and hung up on. I’ve coughed so hard on an airplane that I peed in my pants.
Now I know for certain that I can deal with whatever life throws at me, because I’ve survived so much, and this too shall pass. Remember: Someone always has it worse.
- I’ve realized that life is about experiences.
The realization that my time in this world is finite has made me think a lot about those bucket list experiences that I haven’t gotten around to yet. So, I’ve started checking them off: falconry, flying a 777 airplane in a legit flight simulator, meeting Def Leppard (OK, yes, I know I’m old) are some of the things I’ve done already. Still on the list: hiking part of the Appalachian Trail and kissing the Blarney Stone. Life is short, do things. Do everything. In the end, those experiences will change you for the better, even if it’s just making you a more well-rounded person with a wider worldview.
- I’m not afraid to ask for what I want.
That’s the thing about getting older; you realize that if you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it. (Or as the great Wayne Gretzky once said, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.)
- I’m not afraid of saying no.
I’ve said yes to too many projects and other commitments that I regretted later on (mostly because it wasn’t work I enjoyed or that was worth my time). Now? If I don’t want to do something (and I can afford to not do it), I turn it down. When I was younger, it was flattering to get extra projects and speaking engagements at work, and I felt as though saying no would offend the person offering them. Now, I know my time, health, and keeping my anxiety levels low is more important than saying yes to everything.
- I’m proud of what makes me different.
I spent so much time when I was younger trying to fit in and be who I thought people wanted me to be. Now I understand that what makes me unique also is what makes me great. Whether it’s the scar on my leg or my habit of saying what everyone else is thinking, it’s all out there. I figure, if people don’t like me the way I am, they’re not worth knowing.
By the same token, I’m not afraid to stand up for what I believe in, and I couldn’t care less if people don’t like my take on things. It’s called being myself and it’s fantastic. Getting older has really blunted the self-consciousness of my youth, in a good way.
- I have more money than I’ve ever had—and I’m more responsible with it.
Hopefully, my days of living paycheck to paycheck are gone (although with freelancing, I never know). I’m by no means wealthy, but I have enough money to be comfortable. This is in stark contrast to the many, many years where I had minus $300 in my checking account by the end of every month and I was struggling to pay for groceries. Now that I have money, though, I am managing to save some (saving is super hard when you don’t have enough to pay your bills), and I don’t splurge as much on crap that I don’t need. I like nice stuff, and I do treat myself, but I’m a lot more careful to do it when I think I can afford it, not when I know I can’t.
- I can actually care for myself properly.
If I don’t think it’s good for me, I’m not doing it. I also try (and don’t always succeed) to take a solo vacation every year to get away and decompress, and I’ve even started to meditate. Ten years ago, I would have laughed in your face if you told me I’d be meditating. I was always running, chasing something, unable to slow down. One of the best parts of getting older? I’ve learned how to slow down, which is a huge part of caring for my emotional health.
- I’m grateful for what I have (and for what I don’t).
When I was younger, I sort of slid through life without thinking about how lucky I was. Now, I know just how fortunate I’ve been.
There’s a saying: In the end, all that matters is how much you loved, and how much you were loved. When I think of my life, I know I’ve loved fiercely and have been loved fully. I am also grateful for the experiences I’ve had, and that I haven’t suffered a whole lot, as many other people have.
- I accept people for who they are.
You can’t change people, and I’ve wasted enough time in my life trying to do that, whether it’s on Twitter trying to change someone’s mind about their crazy diet, or in real life. Now, I don’t bother. I understand that people are just living their truth, and if it doesn’t fit with mine, I make one of two choices: I can choose not to interact with them, or I can value them for everything else they bring to my life.
- I realize my ability to make an impact in people’s lives.
I have a great job, and it’s one that puts me in the position to help people change their lives. When I was younger, I didn’t realize what an impact I was having on people. Over the years, and especially since I started writing, I’ve gotten the most amazing feedback from people that brings more meaning to my own life.