“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” ― Robert Frost
There it was coiling like a venomous snake rearing for the strike. The harsh neon lights of the campus restroom beamed down upon the single cursed wire. I caught a glimpse of it in the mirror and flinched in horror. Was it? Could it be? Repulsed, I swiftly yanked the vile offender from the root and made a beeline for my office.
I am almost 38 years old. Gray hair is not out of the question (especially if you know my children), so why was I so taken aback by this discovery? Why did I panic and try to erase all evidence?
I hardly even notice the fact that I am aging. Truthfully, I am pretty proud of my age -including the new CrossFit category I was forced to enter this year: Women’s Masters. On a daily basis, I am thankful that I am doing and capable of more than I ever have been in my previous 30 some years. I am stronger, wiser, more experienced and more comfortable in my own skin than I ever was as a teen or 20 something. The freedom that comes with age and self-confidence is priceless. Gone are the days of worrying about what other people might think and teetering on the acceptance and praise of others. Yet, I physically cringed at the sight of a singular gray hair.
Occasionally, when I see old pictures of myself, I am struck by my younger face. My twenty-something smile was not carved with deep lines from laughter. My eyes seemed a bit brighter having seen less pain and drained fewer tears. My hands were smoother and less calloused from years of cleaning, pulling, holding and gripping. Everything seemed a bit newer, less broken-in. But we all know our favorite jeans, shoes, sheets and robes, items that bring us comfort and allow us to be our most relaxed selves, are only truly enjoyed once they have been “broken-in.”
Recently, one of my coworkers had a birthday. “Thirty seven is good so far,” he confided. I smiled and told him I was on my way out as I will turn 38 in April. He asked me if I could see any differences from aging. I literally laughed out loud at this question. I swiveled my chair around to face him and looked him straight in the eye. “I am better, stronger and healthier at almost 38 than I have ever been. I can’t wait to see what I will be able to do next year.”
With each passing year I am finding more ways to live this life to the fullest and nurture a better version of myself. I do CrossFit workouts five times per week and practice yoga. I enjoy time with my book and writing clubs. I explore the great outdoors with my family. I sing, dance and laugh with my husband and best friend. I talk and pour out my heart to friends and till the soil of my soul. I sit in the sunshine, soak in bubble baths, and nourish my body with real nutritious food. I see, hear, smell, feel and touch all this big, beautiful world has to offer and challenge my heart to fall in love with as many things as possible. Aging, as it turns out, is synonymous with a life well lived.
Yes, I am older, weathered and scarred, but I am strong in a homegrown way that can only be earned. The resilience and personal strength I have labored to build through my life experiences make me better equipped to handle whatever might come my way. My personal awareness and newfound ability to be present in the moment fortifies my soul for the bumps and tidal waves this life might bring. Time spent moving the barbell and pushing the limits of my physical being has sculpted my body into a strong, healthy and capable vessel to carry me through the rest of my days. I have opened my mind and heart to learn and develop as a person. To borrow a line from William Butler Yeats, I am, indeed, happiest when growing.
Aging is evolving. A lifelong extrovert, I am learning to savor every moment spent alone in quiet with my thoughts. I have turned an inward eye to explore my motivations and feelings rather than cover or hide them behind a shallow veil of youth. My older self is, dare I say, possibly even becoming a hugger. Who knows how else I might surprise myself! I am anticipating grand adventures in my forties and beyond.
So, let the gray hairs come forth and multiply! May this new shade be accompanied by an even better version of me. May my older self read, write, dance, sing, laugh, lift, explore, love and, yes, even hug, more than ever before. May this wiser self vow once and for all to replace aging with the fine art of living.