Catching sight of my face in the mirror one night I noticed two crevices on either side of my mouth—smile lines.
Huh. When did those get there? They matched the set of fine lines that had appeared above my eyebrows from furrowing them together in frustration.
I can recall as a kid staring in the mirror and trying to imagine how I would look as an adult. Would I still have freckles? Would I be tall? Would I be athletic, or fat or would I ever be able to get a tan?
I remember watching the movie Logan’s Run. The movie takes place in the future in a society in which age is no longer valued and when the people of the city reach the age of 30, they voluntarily die in a futuristic ritual sacrifice. Everyone somehow had lights implanted in their hands and at the time of their 30th birthday, the light would glow. At the time, I thought this was weird but didn’t give much thought to it. Everyone seemed old to me in my child-mind.
Since I have entered my fourth decade, age has been a nagging thought that pops up from time to time when I catch glimpses in the mirror or when my kids ask me if television was black and white when I was little. (It wasn’t.)
Although 40’s had always seemed to be a time when I thought I would have life straightened out and be a productive happy adult, the truth is I don’t feel any different now than I did in my 20’s. Well, maybe I feel a little different, but not much.
This all occurred to me one day that experiences throughout my life actually do not feel linear, but rather walk along the side of me.
The flutter in my belly when a boy first grabbed my hand and held it feels just as strong and recent as my morning cup of coffee. The ache in my heart when I first lost a grandparent can still be felt at the thought of them. The warmth from my newborn baby being placed on my chest right after childbirth is still imprinted in my skin just as if it had happened last month and the sweet scent of his hair I can still smell when I close my eyes and think of it.
I can envision my first car, and the pride swelling in my heart when I remember turning the key the first time—that little old blue Chevy Nova bought in a used car lot with the money I had saved. The leaves rustling underneath my feet as I wandered across the college campus to class—-slightly lost and feeling incredibly shy—I can still hear crunching with each step.
Running through an empty house that was just bought and paid for with my new husband and making plans on where to put the couch and what color to paint the walls, all echo through my mind like it just happened last year. In contrast, the mixture of liberation, fear and sadness as I walked out of that house for the last time ready to embark on a new life burns in my heart.
These memories play out through my thoughts and none of them seem far away and yet all of them are in the past. This dawns on me and I realize that after four decades I don’t feel older, but perhaps wiser. I still see through the same eyes and feel with the same hands and heart.
I still am the same girl that was watching Logan’s Run on the couch in the living room of the ranch home I grew up in and the same teen holding the hand of a boy for the first time. I am the same exhausted woman that just gave birth and was terrified to change a diaper of such a small baby.
They are all still me and not a part of my past but present in every day.
It’s then that I realize that getting old is less about aging and more about giving up the newness. I suddenly see that there are people younger than me that are old, and people older than me that are so young.
I trace the lines on my face and see the laughter and worry. I see the crinkles near my eyes that showed times of joy and faint traces of stress on my forehead. The freckles have faded and I still can’t get a proper tan. I wonder what I will look like when I am old and if I will still feel like I do now.
Somehow I think maybe I will.
Like elephant journal on Facebook.
Editor: Cat Beekmans
Photo Credit: Pixoto