Growing Old

Back when I was a teenager, I thought ‘late twenties’ and ‘early thirties’ was ancient.  I thought there would be a definitive time to declare myself a ‘grown-up’, a perfectly polished lady who would say all sorts of smart things and make all sorts of serious decisions.  I’d think about that once in a while, usually every birthday, and then shrug and move on to thoughts of more interesting subjects like that cute blouse I wanted to buy or an interesting new classmate who smiled at me in Physics.  And then I turned 20 and shed a few tears, because the teenage years were officially over and so much change was happening- we were graduating from college and ‘real life’ was about to begin.  The funny thing is, as time passed I never really felt any different.  In my mind I was still that same young girl, eager to make a difference and prove myself to the world.  My friends and I found jobs, went out, and saved up to travel.  Some friends put up their own businesses or decided to take further studies, some decided to get married, some decided to try their luck overseas.  Life went on, and seasons changed.  And then, just when life was starting to settle down it seemed, more ‘adult’ things happened- some friends shifted careers completely unexpectedly.  Long time couples (yes, even the married ones) broke up.  Other friends became lawyers and doctors.  Some started having kids.  And others steadily climbed up the corporate ladder, becoming business leaders in their respective fields.  I started to notice that my college friends and I were no longer talking about funny incidents that happened in school—we were discussing investment opportunities and career paths.  In the office, instead of talking about who was dancing with whom at some company event, we were meeting on departmental budgets and employee engagement.  And among my girls, instead of talking about crushes and lipstick and new outfits, we were talking about the future. 

All of this culminated for me one day when I spotted—no, it couldn’t be—but was that really a single strand of white hair?!  I plucked it out, started screeching and went running to my mom.  Apparently I’m not the only lunatic out there—my good friend saw some faint wrinkles under her eyes and spent the entire afternoon crying.  And no, it’s not just the vanity that gets us.  It’s the thought that yes, time is flying fast and we are the grown-ups now, there is no way to turn back to the days when our biggest problem was who to take to the prom or who the head cheerleader would be for Intramurals.  And that it was high time to face the question- have I done what I was meant to do?  What I’ve always wanted to do?  Or did I get sidetracked by life somehow?

White hair and all (thankfully none have reappeared, and no wrinkles yet too), and having fully accepted that I am an adult now, I still feel strangely young though.  Sure, there are now people in the office who are a decade younger than I am, I do get to make some big decisions at work now and I no longer turn into a giggly hyperventilating puddle of mush when I see a guy I like, but the curiosity, the eagerness to learn, the penchant for fun and good times is all still there as if nothing has changed.  You’re only as old as you feel, they say—and they’re right.  Because just yesterday I interviewed a 17 year old boy for a scholarship and his demeanor seemed like that of an old, weary man.  At the same time I think of my dad, who at 63 was full of life and laughter and mischief and if not for his physical condition, would have seemed not a day over 30.

Perhaps it is the people with broken spirits who grow old.  The ones whose dreams have slipped away, those who have experienced the harshness of the world, the ones who’ve been hurt by the people who were supposed to love them the most. 

I can’t say I’ve been sheltered from all things difficult in life.  But for every hurt, I’ve chosen to let go and to focus on the blessings existing in my life instead.  There’s too much to be thankful for to focus on whatever you’ve lost or whatever you don’t have. 

And I realized that the fountain of youth really springs from within, in knowing that you are living the life you choose and you are doing the best you can to make every day count.

Autumn in Kyoto- taken on my birthday last year 🙂

I was originally going to write about how to ‘preserve one’s youth’ with creams and potions like I always do, and yes there is nothing wrong with wanting to still be beautiful despite your age, but instead I’ll say this—age gracefully.  Live your life, follow your dreams, do what feels right and find a job you love.  Go dance in the rain and spend time with orphans, adopt a puppy, say I love you, work and play hard, travel, and make memories that last a lifetime.  And hey, if despite all your efforts to stay young you get a wrinkle here and an age spot there, it’s not the end of the world because life is beautiful and you are, too.

So to all Kikay girls out there, if there’s one thing I want you to remember from all my tips and thoughts, it is that physical beauty is really only skin deep.  Work on your character, feed your soul, and live a life that matters.  That is true, ageless beauty.

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