I ugly cried at 35.
News flash: According to our culture, thin is in. And, young is, too.
When we scroll through our social media newsfeeds or pretend not reading People or Star Magazine in line at the grocery store, our eyes capture image after image of youth. It’s hard to not notice the two-dimensional, digitized perfection of bright, unlined eyes, silky cellulite-free legs or taut tummies skin coming at us from every direction. We’re seen the photos of Hollywood starlets, barely out of high school, wearing grown-up hair and clothes posing for pictures that capture their shiny, smooth, youthful skin. No wrinkles. No puckers. Just smooth skin. From head to toe. Even if the photos are tweaked on someone’s laptop before posting, those images are evidence of what the message that our culture wants every woman to bathe in and believe: Only young is beautiful.
Once upon a time (not long ago), I bought into that message. When I was young, that message didn’t create any drama in my life. But, the day I turned 35, that message devastated me.
On the day I turned 35 years old, my husband and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary in glorious Grand Cayman. There I stood against the crystalline blue Caribbean waters with the man of my dreams at my side. I gazed at the beauty of my surroundings and slowly, emotionally began to disconnect from it. I could feel the beauty around me, but I could not feel it in me. I began to crumble. Right there in that perfect moment, I covered my eyes and sobbed in the middle of the street. Like an avalanche, my tears tumbled down my cheeks and a great cry rumbled from the pit of my soul, bulldozing through my tender heart and exploding out of my mouth. My anguish was apparent to the concerned tourists that strolled by. I didn’t care. I just leaned against my husband and mourned the fact that I was losing a connection to something that matter to me: youth.
So, I had the ugly cry. Snot. Loud gasps. More snot. Incoherent words. Doubled over. Tissues weren’t going to help and nothing was going to stop it. Once the ugly cry starts, you’re just in until it’s over.
Y’all know what I’m talking about, right. Oh, please tell me that you understand! It may not make rational sense, but I think you get where I’m coming from. If not, let me try to explain my mental math: 35 years old – day before = 34 years, 365 days = Youth versus 35th birthday = You ain’t no spring chicken anymore.
What a difference a day makes, right? Perhaps, your switch flipped at 29, 39, 49 or 69. I was fine at 29. Marginal at 39, but at least better prepared. But, on that day, my 35th birthday, I feared that the Hands of Time was waiting behind some mirror to start smacking me around. Remember getting birthday spanks for each year? I expected birthday slaps, expecting each strike would remove some evidence of my youth with every blow. What would I lose first?
I sobbed as I wondered, “Can I still go for IT?” “Should I still take risks or settle for easy success?” “Will the world listen to an older woman and take her seriously.“ I might have been standing in paradise on my 35th birthday, but in my heart and mind, I was in a abyss.
My devastation stemmed from the fear that my value was diminishing. Would I be enough as I got older? In my heart and mind, my younger years were filled with courageous moments, crazy risks and a sense that anything was possible. As a woman who loved to strap on her courage and clutched taking risks like a teddy bear, I worried that as I aged, I would lose that “let’s do this” abandon that comes with being a young woman. Deep inside, I still had hopes and dreams to achieve. I wondered if I could still build toward those dreams – and new ones – as an older version of the young-at-heart me.
I wish I could tell you that in the last seven years that I’ve settled into the aging process. (Let me save you the math, I’m 42 now). Don’t get me wrong, I love the wisdom that I’ve acquired with age. If I could go back to the younger version of myself and tell her anything, I’d smack her around a little instead. There were too many times when I knew better, but didn’t do better. I’d also tell her not to be in such a doggone hurry and enjoy life a lot more. #buytheshoes #gotoParis #letthekidseatcookiesfordinner
In the last few years, I’ve challenged myself to keep leaping for what’s next. I’ve gone skydiving, completed a survival race, gone on eight overseas missions trips, published a book, completed three very necessary rounds of professional counseling, graduated two kids from high school and so much more. I’ve got my eyes on going to trapeze school at some point in the future. I’m going to learn how to swing through the air (and hopefully, not die.) Why? Just because.
So, the days of my life may be ticking by, but I realized that the number doesn’t determine the quality of my purpose. Only I do.
And you do, too.
Q4U: If fear or money wasn’t an issue, what would you love to accomplish or try out? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Post them in the comments below – and feel free to borrow some ideas from the other comments!
Thanks for stopping by,