The pro-ageing movement is a force to be reckoned with, and anti-ageing culture is surely quaking in its boots, so why are we all rejoicing in the wonders of growing wiser?
No. I’ll say it again because I can. No. Although I would always tack a ‘thank you’ on the end or slip a ‘sorry’ in front. It’s taken me years to gain the courage to politely decline invitations or freelance jobs that I really don’t want to accept. To not go along with every single plan simply to please. Just one of the unexpected benefits that comes with the passing of time. A revelation worthy of celebration.
There are many things to be grateful for as you segue from 20s to 30s, from 30s to 40s and onwards (being in my 50s, I’m in the onwards category). One of the gifts is that you start to appreciate what you’ve learned and learn what you appreciate.
For instance, I now know that showing others gentle, genuine kindness (I’m not talking a shallow version of virtue signalling) has as great a currency in life as high rolling success. Because it’s the quality and meaning of our everyday interactions that make life worthwhile, not just how much we’ve gained or earned. Sure, tangible achievement is important and valuable, but also top of my list of to-dos are more down-to-earth accomplishments, like helping out neighbours or doing something small but sincere to cheer people up.
When it comes to physical appearance, Gen Z and Millennials have embraced individuality and self-expression to a much greater degree than my generation ever did when we were a similar age. It’s a positive step. This particularly hit home during lockdown when I was going through old photographs of me in my 20s. I had long, red, wavy hair, which wasn’t in fashion at the time, and I hated it, the reason I straightened and highlighted it blonde for years. With fresh eyes, I could see my natural hair was lovely. What’s more, it made me, me.
The lesson? Don’t be in a rush, particularly when you’re young, to change or conceal what makes you special and unique. Beauty isn’t about fillers or filters that make everyone look the same. It’s about taking care of your mind and body and respecting your skin, understanding its specific quirks and needs. That’s the kind of action that will repay you over the years.
In a way, lockdown was a hothouse for learning about ourselves. After months of not going out (well, nowhere smart anyway) I learned to drop the mask of the same-old, same-old make-up that I used to apply every day. I got brave (or was it slapdash) about being seen bare-faced in public. After all, I was only walking the dog. The upshot has been a renewed love of applying make-up in different ways, enjoying switching it up when there’s a reason to go glam.
While time is a great healer, experience is a great teacher. Two of its vital lessons are that you can grow from your mistakes and that not everything ‘bad’ that happens is necessarily the disaster you take it to be at the moment of impact.
Another lesson is to be your very best self and trust that’s enough. I spent a lot of my adult life fretting about what friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even virtual strangers might be thinking about me. What I realised, eventually, is that however hard you try, you can never be everybody’s cup of Earl Grey, and in any case, people aren’t focussing on you half as much as you believe. In fact, you’re flattering yourself if you think they are. They’re usually too busy wondering and worrying how they’re coming across.
I realised comparing myself to others or wringing my hands that I wasn’t doing as well as I ‘should’ be, was also a waste of time. I tried, instead, to cultivate the habit of reminding myself what I had achieved, as well as recognising that I’d gone through some really tough times and dug myself out of each and every one of them.
Modern culture is so future-focussed. It’s all what’s new? and what’s next? Mapping out dynamic paths. Scoping out possibilities. Expanding horizons. Fulfilling dreams. The mantra is to keep on moving on. Sure, while the past has gone and there’s certainly no point in dwelling on it, there is value in pausing to recollect and reflect. To realise how far you’ve already come.