Sometimes I still feel like I’m 35. I feel like I was that age just yesterday. But then I remember all the things that have happened between then and now. I was at a very different place in my life back then, focused almost entirely on my kids, and I was in a relationship that wasn’t healthy for me. I hadn’t yet figured out that the kids and I are autistic. I had only barely started my writing (and adjacent) career. And I didn’t know what I wanted my empty nested future to look like.

Here are some other differences, for better and for worse, between my experience of being 35 and that of being 50.

Now I:

  • Hurt almost all the time, somewhere in my body.
  • Have to do my physical therapy exercises to have a chance at feeling normal.
  • Don’t have to worry about having periods all that often, but I am overcome with hot flashes—even in the middle of winter—with no warning, like I’m being cooked from the inside.
  • Can exercise wrong and feel it for days. Or weeks. Or months.
  • Have less hair in some areas, more in others.
  • Am generally more droopy and saggy.
  • Am living all those stereotypes of growing older like “I still feel like I’m 25 inside my own head”.
  • Notice that more and more people my age are dying, and more and more famous people from when I was young are dying or looking like they could die at any moment.

But I also:

  • Can surprise myself with experiences of youth like sitting on a concrete bench for 90 minutes with no repercussions, no soreness the next day.
  • Know more things. Not just facts, but life wisdom. I have found patterns in my own behavior, and that of others. I just know more about how everything works. I look forward to knowing how even more things work as I get older!
  • Care a lot less about what people think now. Life is so temporary, but I had to get to mid-life to feel comfortable taking these types of social risks. I’m still not very good at it, but at least the intention is there now, and I make steady progress.

So, all in all, pros and cons. But growing older is certainly better than the alternative.

I have a card on my desk that says, “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” I always try to remember that.

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