Aging is Scary, but There Are Ways to Cope
Aging is scary but taking inventory of the good in life and surrounding yourself with those you love makes all the difference.
Jan 24, 2023
I’m scared of getting old. The lines finding their home on my face. The reality of my aging becoming more and more visible. I see the way my almost-93-year-old grandma looks at her hands and says, “Que feas se miran mis venas. Son negras. Antes eran gueritas como las tuyas.” But I think her hands are beautiful, how incredibly delicate her skin is. If I’m accidentally too rough, it tears as easily as wet paper. The lines grow a little deeper as they gently capture the days. I’m so thankful I get to have this time with her. We sit around watching old westerns like Rawhide, Wagon Train, and Cheyenne. She doesn’t speak a word of English, but she always catches me up on what I missed in between visits. Now, I just have to learn to embrace that aging is scary and remember to show myself the same kind of reverence as I go through this inevitable.
Clinical psychologist Meg Jay says that 80% of our most significant life experiences and most impactful life decisions happen by the time we’re 35. As of 2021, the average age of an American was 76 years old. This means that middle age isn’t 50, it’s actually closer to 38, a number only a few handfuls of years away from me. By the time most Americans hit the real middle age, the trajectory of our life has been determined by the choices we made in our 20s and early 30s. A scary thought since most people I know weren’t taught how significant our choices in our 20s are. Did I make the right choices? I have no idea, but I try to trust that my past self did the best she could. If I don’t believe this, I can easily wake up in the middle of the night and waste hours on what could’ve been.
The people of France recently took to the streets to protest raising the age of retirement from 62 to 64 to keep the country’s pension system stable. Another scary possibility: I might have to work until I die. In a previous post, I talk about my goal to semi-retire by the time I’m 45. After doing some calculations, 45 seemed the most ideally realistic. After recently realizing middle age is not as far away as I thought and seeing what France is going through, I want to focus on bringing this age down to semi-retiring by the time I’m 40. Mostly, I’m scared I won’t get to enjoy my life if I’m working until I die, but this also shouldn’t keep me from enjoying my life now.
Just today I was thinking about a few bad money choices I made that set me back a year of savings. Fortunately, my partner was there to remind me it’s ok. I can dwell, or understand I did what I thought was right then and move on. So, I decided to move on. Maybe that’s another type of reverence that comes with aging: Allowing one’s self the understanding that we’ve done the best we can with what we have. I thankfully love my life and my job, have the privilege to save, and get to do things I enjoy, like writing these blog posts and spending time with my family. Aging is scary, and it never won’t be.
Despite all the unknowns, taking inventory of the good in my life and seeing my grandma each week is a great reminder that as long as I show gratitude for what I have in life and surround myself with those I love it’s a little less scary, which makes a world of difference on hard days.