black and white close up of feet and hands Photo Credit: Susan Kelly, Natural Images

5 secret benefits of ageing

Another year has just ticked over. Every one of us will get another year older in 2018. I’ll turn 55 this year. Am I panicked? Nope. I am quite looking forward to it. Maybe I am just lucky. I don’t worry about ageing. But I know plenty of people who do.

Take a good friend of mine. She looks a decade younger than she is. Hallelujah! She’s won the genetic lottery. But rather than celebrate her good fortune, she lies about her age. WTF?

My friend and I are the same age, but ‘officially’ she is still 45. I’ll never get that. Why? It’s no secret that we all age. In fact, we do so with every breath we take. So we may as well take them mindfully and stop stressing about getting older.

I admit, turning 35 was a tad scary. It  meant finally having to live like a grown up. 45 was another difficult milestone. I was never going to have children.

Turning 50 was simply an excuse to have a great party and to think about living my life in new ways. And life only keeps on getting better. At 54 I feel more comfortable with who I am than ever before.

Sure, I’ve looked better – fewer wrinkles, less grey hair, no fatty, sagging body bits – but I’ve never felt better in my life. So, as I approach a milestone birthday, let me share with you why there is absolutely no reason to panic about ageing. Let’s celebrate the good stuff about getting older.

1. Ageing is liberating

I know, it sounds counter-intuitive. Especially since the first thing you’ll notice as a woman over 50 is that you become invisible. Men no longer look at you and millennials will always believe that they are smarter than you. No matter how wise and young-for-your-age you are. It can be infuriating and depressing.

But here’s the secret. Knowing that your time is slowly running out, frees us from the need to please others. Ageing teaches us, by hook or by crook, that there is no point in believing that you’ll ever live up to the expectations of others. As we age, we learn to pay attention to what really matters. It’s no longer about the outside, about looks and appearances, it’s about what happens on the inside of us.

At 50 you can’t afford to stay in a bad relationship or pay attention to what others think. It’s finally time to nourish your relationship with yourself. Giving yourself permission to do that is in itself empowering.

2. Ageing is empowering: we grow wise and resilient

As we age, we cross many watersheds. We learn to be survivors. We stumble, we fall and we learn to pick ourselves up again. We pass through the fire and we rise from the ashes many times. Being vulnerable, surviving our pain and our falls, we grow wiser and resilient.

Living through life’s messiness will leave the marks of time on our bodies. My hands and feet look wizened and old in the photo I chose for this post. I didn’t like this photo at first – I wanted to look young and vibrant on my website – but now I love it.

Living in Vietnam I’ve found you can have another perspective on ageing. In Asia elders are respected. Millennials will always be juniors here. There is a clear hierarchy: you learn from your elders.

Elder wisdom is an authentic wisdom. It’s accumulated knowledge, learned through the body, the soul and the mind. It’s lived experience, whether you grew up in a privileged western country or in a poor fishing village in Vietnam.

That’s one of the reasons I live in Vietnam. And the fact that every other day someone will say that I am beautiful, at nearly 55. Where else would I feel that way?

3. Ageing has made me fearless

There is an incredible sense of freedom in acknowledging that the clock is ticking. Once you’re over 50 you can no longer live in denial. It’s now our never. I’m on the train home.

Turning 50 has made me courageous. If I want to see my dreams fly, I need to chase them now. I no longer have time to nurture secret pipe dreams. If  I want to write a novel,  I’ve got to start putting words on paper. If I want to become an elephant trainer,  a yoga teacher or an aromatherapist, I need to step into action now.

I don’t want my dreams to die with me. So, at 54, I live in a small fishing village in rural Vietnam and I chase my dreams. Every day. And I know plenty of women (and men), of all ages, who do the same. We all share this: we don’t want life to slip by un-lived. We want wholehearted adventures and we are ready to live with less to have a more fulfilled life.

4. Turning 50 is an invitation to write a new chapter

Like any good story, life is made up of several acts. How many of us get it right in the first act? We marry the wrong person, we get stuck in a career that is no longer fulfilling, or we may simply outgrow our goals and partners. The good news is, getting older means there is a second act. And we get to write it.  Suddenly everything is possible again.

Turning 50 felt like an open invitation to claim my second act and to take my dreams out from the bottom of the drawer. I left a flourishing university career after loss and grief forced me to turn inward and do important healing work. I came out of the dark transformed and ready for a radical change.

It took me a while to find my way into the next chapter, but I had fun exploring new options. I worked as a volunteer for International Development abroad, I did a stint as a travel writer, reviewing luxury resorts in the Maldives (yes, that was fun), I served copy writing clients (not as much fun as I had hoped), until finally I listened to my heart and realised that I really missed teaching and that I had new things to teach. And that’s how this website was born.

We all have different ambitions. I know plenty of people who’ve traded corporate life or the boredom of being a laywer, for a simpler but more fulfilled life, living on a fraction of their previous budget. The key is to listen deeply to what your heart tells you and to give yourself permission to follow your intuition.

5. Ageing can be the most creative time in your life

How many of us have buried our creativity when we locked away our crayons at the end of 5th grade and decided that both our teachers and our inner critic were absolutely right. We’re no good at art. We may as well give up.

At least that’s what happened to me. I buried my creativity with my first period. It was time to grow up, leave the sandbox, the lego castles and barbie dolls and stop playing.

As we age, many of us find our way back to our creativity. We start playing again. Maybe because suddenly we have more free time. The kids are gone, we’ve transitioned into part time employment, or maybe we simply itch to explore other ways of relating to the world.

Re-connecting with our creativity can be life changing. And it’s not just about enrolling in art classes and finally learn to do life drawing or en plain air painting. No, it’s about learning to live more creatively. To be more spontaneous and quirky – why not wear green with blue?

Being creative means, as Bill Branson says (and I can’t believe I am quoting him), exploring new ways of connecting the dots. It means finding hidden patterns, making new connections. It asks us to be the kid in a sandbox. Creativity  keeps us young and curious.

So, it’s 2018. The bad news is, we will all turn one year older this year. The good news is, we don’t have to stress about getting older. There is so much to celebrate.

How do you feel about getting older?

Do you admit your age or do you hide it?

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Don’t be shy! Drop me a line in the comments section ♥

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How about starting 2018 with a new creative practice?

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CLICK on the photo to join the free 21-Day Write Your Journey Challenge

21-Day Write Your Journey Challenge

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10 replies
  1. Melanie
    Melanie says:

    I am one year older than you – I will be 56 in August. I never hide or lie about my age. I am who I am – age, looks, personality. If someone doesn’t like any of those, that’s their problem. I am finally comfortable about who I am and what I look like. Like you said, that’s one of the positive things about being in your 50’s.

    I did have a hard time turning 50 though. It sounded “old”. I felt invisible. It took me almost 5 years to feel comfortable with being in my 50’s. I am in good health, I take care of myself, I have a good marriage, and I have plenty of interests and things to do that keep me busy. Is my life perfect? Far from it. And there’s always things about myself that I’m working on. It’s a journey.

    Reply
    • Kerstin
      Kerstin says:

      Thank you Melanie for making a start here. I agree, turning 50 does sound old and it makes us feel invisible, but once we find our way into it, and like you say, it might take a few years, we are able to appreciate the benefits, even the benefits of being invisible. On New Year’s Eve I felt very self conscious about the extra kilos I’ve stacked on since turning 50, but once I hit the dance floor with my two friends, one who is 69, the other 30, I realised how much more liberated I felt, compared to my younger friend, to just go for it and enjoy myself. Maybe that’s the hidden benefit of being invisible 🙂

      Reply
  2. Jane Fowler
    Jane Fowler says:

    I’ll be 54 this year and as you say, ‘on my train home.’ Knowing that has been empowering. For the past 14 years, my husband & I got caught up in our work, feeling guilty if we took time off. Worried about what our friends and neighbours would think of us. The work took its toll on my husband’s health. Nothing serious, but enough to make us stop and reconsider. A year ago we decided to work less, to visit friends more, to let go of the business and to take time to walk ourselves back to health. It wasn’t easy to let go but the long walks in nature gave us plenty of time to talk deeply about the next chapter. As I age, I become stronger, both physically and mentally. Liberated by letting go of what society expects of me. Empowered by a strong mind and body. Fearless in the knowledge, that it’s now or never, I’m ready to start the next chapter. This year we shall be taking an eight-month road trip across Canada. Your words resonated deeply with me, reinforcing the reasons why we’re doing these things. Thank you for writing this post.

    Reply
    • Kerstin
      Kerstin says:

      Hi Jane, lovely to see you here and so wonderful to read your reply to this post. It’s so funny how we feel guilty for taking time off and worry about what others think. I used to do that too, but this year I’ve decided it’s time to prioritise a bit of self-care. It’s interesting to hear what you say about becoming stronger, both physically and mentally as you age. I feel exactly the same way. So happy this post resonated with you. Will you document your road trip in a travel blog? 8 months on the road across Canada sounds simply divine! Good for you to know how to prioritise your own wellbeing, so important.

      Reply
      • Jane Fowler
        Jane Fowler says:

        Hi Kerstin,
        Yes, I will be writing about our travels. I have been writing a homesteading blog since 2012 and have found a real joy in writing about my experiences. It always amazes me that people actually want to read what I write!
        I’m trying to decide if I should start a new blog for our travels or add a travel section to my existing blog. Anyway, whatever I decide, I will definitely be writing about it.

        Reply
        • Kerstin
          Kerstin says:

          I don’t know what it is about blogging, but like you say it brings joy, it has been the same for me. And I know how you feel, when you say you are amazed that people want to read what you write. I look forward to your write-up of your trip. I find that writing about our travels brings a whole different quality to writing as we are seeing everything with fresh eyes. I am sure you will get a lot out of it. Tried to have a look at your homestead blog, but for some reason it’s not loading (might be my slow internet today). Will try to again another time.

          Reply
  3. Jennifer BIRTWISTLE
    Jennifer BIRTWISTLE says:

    Hi Kerstin,
    Lovely to see your lovely smile.

    I am turning 64 this month and have never worried about my age…I have always looked younger than my peers so I have been blessed. I always remember my mother in-law saying age is just numbers so don’t worry about them. Yes, I don’t like the rolls and saggy bits but not many wrinkles yet. I have decided to keep my hair long…as long as I can stand it as it helps me feel young! I am inspired by an 82 year old lady at my hydro pool who wears it up in a flamboyant bun and it is so much fun! I want to be like her. Fun!

    Reply
    • Kerstin
      Kerstin says:

      Hi Jennifer, nice to see you here and thank you for your comment! Wow, 64! I think when I first met you, you were the age I am now and I remember your flawless skin. You seem blessed with good Peruvian genes 🙂 I like that you are keeping your hair long because it makes you feel you! I also aim to be a flamboyant 80 year old and hopefully still sitting in cross legs, Vietnam and the uncomfy furniture here is good training for this. I agree, let’s think of ageing as fun! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Brenda
    Brenda says:

    I just found and joined your 21 day writing challenge today. I just read your post on ageing. You are so right. Well, I just turned 58 yesterday so here’s to ageing my way! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Kerstin
      Kerstin says:

      Happy birthday Brenda! A friend who recently turned 64 told me that being 60 is the hidden secret. She feels better now than ever before, so here’s to happy ageing! I am very happy you have found my website and that you are participating in the 21-Day challenge! Happy writing 🙂

      Reply

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