5 secret benefits of ageing
I don’t feel a day over 40, but I am inching closer to 60. Am I panicked? Nope. To be honest, I am quite looking forward to it. Maybe I am just lucky, but I don’t worry about ageing. Truly. I never have. 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 47. 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. Now, life only keeps on getting better. At 57 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 inch my way out of another decade, 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 – but now I love it.
Living in Vietnam for the last four year, 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 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 love living in Vietnam (as soon as the borders open I will be back!). I also love the fact that every other day a lady at the market will comment that I am beautiful. At nearly 58, 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. At 53 I chose to live in a small fishing village in rural Vietnam to 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 (and so is 40)
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 lawyer, 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.