Embracing physical changes in your thirties is the key to aging gracefully.
There’s a lot of things said about entering your 30s. “Oh, they’re the best times of your life.” “30s the new 20.” Which for the most part are true. Turning 30 was a breeze. By the time I turned 30, I was ready to be done with my 20s. I had spent the last decade trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted, and 30 gave me the first page in a new chapter to create the life I envisioned for myself. I was a little wiser, a little more self-assured, and I was really comfortable in my own skin, both figuratively and literally. It had taken the better part of my late teens struggling with my body and being self-conscience about my appearance, and the decade of my 20s to come to terms with all those insecurities. So by the time I hit 30, I was ready to finally take pride in those features that had caused me such grief, settle into them, and enjoy myself.
And just when I was ready to celebrate all that my 30s had to offer, my body, who I had for so long struggled with in a love-hate relationship, threw me a curve ball, just to remind me who was really in charge. My 30s weren’t going to all be smooth sailing as I had hoped they would be. Almost on the very day I turned 30, things physically started to change a little bit. It was subtle, and I couldn’t quite figure it out at first what exactly was going on, but the more I thought about it, and the more I questioned it, there were a few constants among my friends who had already hit this milestone that I was experiencing.
It started with the foods I ate. Foods that I had ate my entire life and never had any problems with, suddenly had a problem with me. I experienced heartburn for the first time in my life, and I learned that dairy and I were definitely no longer friends. Next came my hair, which even when I was battling body issues in my youth, my hair had always been on my side. But suddenly it wasn’t as voluminous, felt a bit drier and those pesky gray hairs, that I’m still in denial about, started creeping in. And then came the fine lines, the ones that I had started taking precautions for in my teens, had finally begun to win the war against my beauty creams. They no longer completely fade away once I stop smiling. Additionally, I could no longer stay out till 2am and be an alert functioning person the next day, and a stiff back or neck seemed to take longer to recover from.
Not everything happened overnight; at 36 it’s been a gradual change these past years. 30 was like a countdown of an internal clock waiting for these life changes to occur. It was a bit nerve-wracking at first–no one ever talks about these types of changes. Everything is very generalized in terms of “getting older,” so you never consider that being only 30 years-old is in fact “older.” Along with all the mentally positive things that happen in your 30s, there are certain physical things that no one ever even mentions or gives you the slightest heads-up about. As we enter this decade of self-awareness, we should be open to sharing our experiences with others as we embark on this journey.
So as I entered this time in my life and these things began to happen, I was forthcoming with my younger friends who had yet to experience these changes. With my friends of the same age, we began to talk about it openly, so we could experience it together, to support each other, to be less anxious about these changes. And any and all advice was welcomed from my older friends who had already experienced this transition. The more discussions we had about aging in our 30’s, the more we all felt more comfortable. Speaking honestly about what we were experiencing and being open with each other allowed us to find solace in the fact that someone else was going through the same thing. The shared stories and similar situations created a touchstone that what we were personally experiencing was actually “normal.” And when the younger friends finally hit the big 3-0, they were grateful to have had the knowledge that the changes in their bodies were age-related and the peace of mind not to completely panic.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I find myself often connecting beauty to youth and then I have to remind myself that I will never look quite like I did when I was younger. It makes me a bit sad that I spent so many of my younger years being so critical of myself instead of embracing myself. I see older women all the time that I find stunning, and it helps me to see the beauty in my aging face. At 36 I’m still far from old, I’ve got years of learning, living, and aging to do still. But I also have to be honest with myself that I’m not as young as I use to be, so when I catch a glimpse of myself, and I expect to see me 10 years ago, it takes me a moment to realize that I’ve lived some life since then, and this is me now. It makes me think that maybe the idea of aging should be more about constantly growing mentally, personally, and emotionally and not so much about sagging skin, wrinkles, and gray hair. That kind of aging I’m happy to surrender to, to truly age gracefully. The rest is just cosmetic.
Also by Danielle: Why I Make Spring Resolutions instead of New Years Resolutions
Related: 30 Things You Need to Accept Before Turning 30
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Photo: Devan Freeman via Unsplash