Over the next few days, a few IMAGE staffers muse on the process of getting older…
On the outside looking in, it would appear to others that I’m having the time of my life. In the midst of my twenties, I’m experiencing a time of little responsibility, with no mortgage to worry about, the freedom to come and go as I please and no kids to wake me up at 6am; bliss, right? I’m 26 years old, I have a creative job that satisfies me in every way, I live in a beautiful apartment with the love of my life and I can pay my bills without suffering from malnutrition. I have the loving support of my family at all times and am lucky enough to have a handful of true friends that I will cherish for years to come. In that rather pretty picture, it sounds as though I have everything figured out and perhaps am even someone to be envied.
But I really don’t, and I’m really not. I’m often insecure, I question myself daily, I worry about things that I know are not worth worrying about. My mind races incessantly, analysing and overanalysing, and I’ve battled with anxiety at a time when I really should be sailing along blissfully. At times I’ve felt lost, I’ve felt like I’m not good enough and I’m an awful woman for taking everything to heart. I try to please people and I get very upset when I feel as though I have failed in some way. I’m hard on myself and more often than not, I’m my own worst enemy. Such are the range of afflictions we can experience in our 20s, the years that are said to be the best, but are really the ones you spend with your head stuck firmly up your proverbial, trying your best to sort the wood from the trees and, clich’d as it sounds, trying to ‘find yourself’.
While some women of an older vintage will warn that these are the best years of my existence, and how they’d long to be back in their 20s, on the cusp of life, I simply say ‘you’re not serious, tell me it gets better?’ Unlike so many others who actually dread the idea of turning 30, I welcome it with open arms.
I long for the wisdom that comes with experience, something that you cannot enjoy until you’ve lived a little more. I long for that sense of self and self awareness, the acceptance that you’re not a superwoman and you’ll never be one, but the self-compassion to realise that in reality, you’re doing just fine. I look forward to the time when I will truly befriend myself, when I give myself a break. I long for the ability to cut through the deluge of crap that can dominate your formative years, the ability to say ‘you know what? That’s not going to work for me anymore’, and the ease of not worrying a damn about what anyone else thinks. Now that is something to be envied.
I see women in their 30s and 40s exude more confidence than any of my peers. They may not see it in themselves but I can. They joke, nonchalantly about the perils of aging, about crows feet and sagging bottoms when in reality, they’d admit to being happier than they’ve ever been and certainly more at ease. Sure, they’ll have experienced trying times, but from where they stand, they’ve got enough perspective and experience to handle what life throws at them, knowing from all that has gone before, that they’re more than capable of coping. Such women, (such as editor Ellie who’ll be penning the next in our ‘From Where I Stand’ series) not only inspire me, but reassure me that with age, comes the most wonderful simplicity.
Getting older is far from a curse, it’s a privilege and something that we in our 20s should relish. I certainly will. Will you?
Caroline Foran @CarolineForan