I have been writing recently on the less good things about growing older – society’s view of older people, ageism in the workplace, how our bodies start to betray us, the difficulties of finding age-appropriate clothes that still look great.
But there are plenty of advantages too.
At upper middle age, most of us know who we are. We have grown more comfortable and confident in the person we turned out to be. We have learned that things in life are more grey than black or white. It is often easier for us to compromise. We realise that when things look and feel really bleak, they will get better. Broken hearts do heal. Black moods do pass. We care less what people think about us. We realise that we can never be liked by everyone, and that some people just aren’t very nice. We learn to love the life we have, not long for a life that we will never have.
- I have realised that I don’t want to die rich. I want to spend my time on this earth helping other people, particularly animals. Much of my money goes to fostering and sponsoring homeless animals.
- I have learned what clothes I like and have decided to wear variations of that, not things that I think look nice but would be so uncomfortable for me to wear – high heels for example. I will never be a killer heel person.
- Before getting upset about anything I always ask myself…will it matter in a year? Will it matter on my deathbed? Is this the hill I want to die on? I leave the small fights to the small fighters. I don’t give any emotional labour to people who will not appreciate it.
- I know that more of my life is behind me than ahead of me so I try not to waste any of that time on things that ultimately won’t matter.
- I have learned not to care what other people think. Yes I am nerdy, and probably weird and definitely a crazy cat lady. As long as I pay my bills, don’t commit crime and show kindness rather than cruelty, who and how I am is nobody’s business. Someone told me the other day that I should act my age and I laughed and said ‘at my age, I don’t care what you think’ and I honestly didn’t!
- I don’t regret all the mistakes and bad decisions that I have made – and I have made many – because all of them have led me to where I am now, and given me the life I have. I would not change that for anything.
- What I do regret though, is if I have ever hurt people by things I have carelessly said or done. For me, it’s important to be kind. You can’t know all the times that you’ve hurt people without even realising it. So I choose to be kind every single day.
As many people know, I lost my family at a young age. As a teenager I lost my childhood home (my pets were all euthanised at the same time) and was without parents or siblings. My maternal grandmother had died in a fire and my paternal grandmother – my closest surviving relative – had had had a stroke and was totally incapacitated. I used to drive to the next big city to sit with her for a whole day every second weekend because she had no one else. She was locked into a paralysed body but her mind was sharp. So before I had even turned 18, I had the life of someone who was in their fifties. Until I was 21, I was a ward of the state. While my peers were living the student life with parties and new friends, I felt old and tired and was dealing with wills, paperwork and property law. So maybe the way I am now is a reaction to that? Maybe it is never too late for a happy childhood, or to feel young at heart?