Everyone goes through a period where the imminence of old age can be fearful. An 85-year old lady shared this essay with me. I felt very privileged to have read it. I want it to be a part of my legacy to my children so I am copying it to my journal. I told her that she alleviated my fear of being old and that she is the epitome of growing old gracefully. Now, I can look forward to growing old and wise. Thank you, Joann.
“The other day a young person asked me how I felt about being old. I was taken aback, for I do not think of myself as old. Upon seeing my reaction, she was immediately embarrassed but I explained that it was an interesting question and I would ponder it and let her know.
Old age, I decided, is a gift. I am now probably for the first time in my life, the person I always wanted to be. Oh no, not my body. I sometimes despair over my body but I do not agonize over it for long.
I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, and my loving family for less gray hair or flatter belly. As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I do not chide myself for eating an extra cookie or for not making my bed or for buying that silly cement gecko that I did not need but looks so avant-garde on my patio. I am entitled to overeat, to be messy and to be extravagant. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon, before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.
Whose business is it if I choose to read until 4 AM and sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 50’s and 60’s and if the same time I wish to weep over a lost love, I will.
I know I am sometimes forgetful. But then again, some life experiences are just as well forgotten and I eventually remember the important things.
Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one or when a child suffers? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.
I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn gray and have my youthful laughs forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.
I can say, “No” and mean it. I can say, “Yes” and mean it. As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I do not question myself anymore. I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.
And so, to answer the question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever but while I am here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been or worrying about what will be. For the first time in my life, I do not have to have the reason to do the things I want to do. If I want to play games on the computer all day, lie on the couch and watch movies for hours or if do not want to go to the beach or a movie, I have earned that right. I have put in my time doing everything for others so now I can be a bit selfish without feeling guilty.
I sometimes feel sorry for the young. They face a far different world than I knew growing up, where we feared the law, respected the old, the flag and our country. I never felt the need to use filthy language in order to express myself. And they too, will grow old someday. I am grateful to have been born when I was, into a kinder and gentler world.
Yes, I like being old.”