Old Gal Rules

…or The Annual Waxing Philosophical on my Birthday post.

I was inspired to write this from reading this Daily Spark post this morning.

I was inspired to write this because what he is saying is so very true.

Youth is highly desired and valued in our culture. It is prized over wisdom. Foolish, perhaps, because youth is impulsive and it is vain and it can be superficial. Not enough respect is given to wisdom. Some people go through tremendous, sometimes dangerous lengths to achieve or recapture their youth because they think that doing so will make their problems disappear. But you cannot recapture the past. There are no do-overs in life. You can only move forward and make the most of the time you do have. When you try to capture something you think you lost, you lose out on so many wonderful moments in the here and now.

Today I turn 40. To some people, it’s the end of the world, the end of youth, the end of everything. To me, it’s a new beginning and a time to celebrate. It is not the end of the world to me. But I did not always feel this way. I had to come to terms with and accept it before I could get to this point. It’s also time to get rid of the baggage I still carry.

I have no desire to be twenty again. I did not like myself very much when I was twenty. Most of my life, I have weathered some pretty rotten things. I still carry some of the baggage from that to this day. But having weathered the bad times and the rotten luck has made me into the person I am today.

Yes, I have lines around my eyes. I am proud of those lines. Those lines show the world that in spite of some really bad things I had to go through, I never lost my ability to laugh. Some people would say, “Honey, there is nothing in life that is that funny.” To which I reply, “Then you have no sense of humor.” I pity those people who don’t know how to laugh. For me to apply a cream, or have a doctor inject botulism toxin (which is what Botox is: a toxin) into those crinkles around my eyes is to deny something about myself that I cherish: the ability to laugh, even when things are bad or hopeless.

A moment of digression: I can’t understand why someone would willingly have a toxin injected into their faces to smooth out wrinkles. When I hear the word botulism, which is what the “bo” in Botox stands for, it makes me think of a book I read when I was a kid: Trixie Belden and the Mystery at Maypenny’s. In this story, girl detective Trixie Belden gets embroiled in a mystery involving a furniture company that wants to come into town and wants to locate on a piece of land that partially belongs to Mr. Wheeler and part to Mr. Maypenny. There were mysterious dead ducks showing up in the Wheeler’s game preserve. The ducks died of botulism. So when I hear the word Botox, I wonder why someone would willingly inject into their faces a substance that can kill animals, so they can look younger.

Anyway…

The phrase “age is but a number” is a cliché, but it is so very true. Forty does not mean the end of fun. I fully intend on enjoying life. I don’t feel old, either. To lose the ability to have fun is the end of everything to me. The day I stop laughing, the day I stop having fun, is the day I die. I don’t want to be like my parents. When they were in their forties, they were old. They acted old. They forgot how to have fun. That being said, my definition of “fun” has changed since I was younger. No longer is it fun to get absolutely hammered and wake up feeling like I just crawled out of a sewer while the little person who has taken up residence in my head is screaming in my ear and won’t stop.

Today, at 40, I feel much better physically than I did at 20. Mentally, too. I am in much better shape than I was at 20. I’m a lot happier and I have more confidence in myself. And this feeling is why I log my food every day. This feeling is why I go online to look at restaurant menus and plan what I am going to order when I go out to eat. This feeling is why I pack my own lunch every day instead of eating out of the vending machine at work. This feeling is why I make myself go to the gym when I don’t feel like it. This feeling is why I make myself pop Biggest Loser Boot Camp into my DVD player when I don’t feel like going to the gym and know I still have to exercise. This feeling is why work my ass off at the gym or at home to burn calories. This feeling is why I do the work instead of taking the easy way out.

I have become comfortable in my own skin now. This is something that can only happen over time and with the wisdom gained through age and dealing with my own issues. No plastic surgery or quick fixes will help you become comfortable in your own skin. Only time and a little sweat equity will accomplish this.

Don’t wish for the past. Cherish the memories, but accept the present. Enjoy and cherish the time you have now. Learn to become comfortable in your own skin. Wear the crinkles around your eyes as badges of honor. Take each experience as a life lesson. Embrace the wisdom you gain each day from those lessons you’ve learned. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Take responsibility for your actions.

And don’t be afraid to face those things you fear most about yourself: The Truth. The Truth hurts sometimes, but you gain the most wisdom when you can face The Truth head on, acknowledge it, and learn from it. When you can do this, then you will be truly set free.

Waxing Philosophical on My Birthday

Three-hundred and sixty five days from now, I will hit the Big 4-0.  Yes, it’s my birthday today and I’m not ashamed to admit that I am 39 years old.

I’m okay with it.  I really am.  And I’m okay with turning 40 next year, too.  I hope that I have the same excitement next year that I did when I turned 30.  Back when that happened, I purposely went out and bought a coffee mug that shouted “30 Rocks!”  I embraced turning 30 in a big way.

I’m comfortable with all of this because I’d rather be the age I am now than be 18 again.  Youth is horribly overrated.  The only way I would even consider being 18 again is if I could keep all of the knowledge I have gained over the years.

One thing I have come to realize about age and getting older is that you can’t stop the inevitable.  No Botox, no plastic surgery, no hair plugs, no Viagra, no dressing like a 20 year old is going to stop the calendar.   The only thing about this that I can control is what I do with the time I am given.

When I turned 35, I ended up doing a lot of soul searching.  I had one of those “I’m 35 and what have I done with my life” moments.  I came to the realization that when I turned 40, I did not want to have another “what have I done with my life” moment and that I have the power to do something with my life.  Which is what led me to go back to school to get an associate degree.

School is for my job, so I can get a degree and move up.  I have the skills and I have the intelligence, but I lack the degree to move up in the company.  But school is also for myself because I’ve always talked about going back.  Talk is just words.  Talking about doing something isn’t going to get it done.  Action is what gets it done. Taking the bull by the horns and doing something to change your situation is the only way to make the most of the time you are given on this Earth.   For years, I would talk about going back, but I couldn’t afford it.  But when I realized that I could save up the amount of money to pay for one class and that one classes material from a few paychecks (after bills are paid), it made my “I can’t afford it” excuse null and void.   I decided that yes, I was going to do it, even if it meant I took one class at a time and it took me longer than five years to do it.

I’m not scared of the school work required of me to do this.  But there is that leap into the unknown that is scary.

Someday, when this is done, or perhaps right after this is done, I would like to do something else “for me”.  I would like to transfer my credits over to get a Bachelor’s degree in business.  It’s not so much for work as it is more personal.

I could have gone to college right out of high school, but didn’t.  In many ways, I’m glad I didn’t go then because at that point in my life, I could not have appreciated it.   Knowing the person I was then, I probably would not have finished school.   Back then, I didn’t think I deserved to go to college, or that I was worthy of going to college, even though I was certainly smart enough to get in and I could have worked my tail off to pay for it myself if that’s what it took to get through.

It took me years to work out all the issues I had when I was younger, particularly regarding my self-esteem.   I wasted a lot of my life and squandered opportunities because I didn’t think I was worthy of it.  I don’t believe that now I deserve to go to college.  Deserve implies some sort of entitlement, and I am not entitled to a Bachelor’s Degree.  However, I want to go to college.   I want to get my bachelor’s degree.   I will do what I have to in order to get through school and realize my goals.

Part of “growing up” is realizing that you and only you can determine the path your life takes.  Outside forces may try to derail your plans, but in the end, you are the one in control of things.  You may be born into a set of circumstances, but they are by no means permanent.  You can work your way out of those circumstances.  It may not be easy and it may not be the obvious path, but you can work your way out of them.   When you want things in life, you have to earn them.   You have to start out with nothing and work for what you have.  A lot of young people now seriously need to learn this lesson.  They need to suck it up, buckle down, and get to work.  Nothing good is gained when it is merely handed to you.

I did not have the greatest of childhoods.  I grew up with emotionally distant parents who neglected to give me the basic necessities in life (like regular doctor and dentist check-ups, not the latest fashions or a Walkman), while somehow always finding the money to do things that they wanted to do.   They did not show me affection, nor did they give me moral support, which is free and shouldn’t cost a thing.   It should be no surprise that I ended up with issues.

However, I have what I have in spite of them.   I had to be willing to face up to things that were not pretty or nice about myself and I had to be willing to change in order to do this.  I had to be willing to take responsibility for my own life to get where I am now.   Had I not done this…I’m not even sure I want to think about what kind of person I would be.