"Forty was my prime," my mom always said. "I felt confident and strong." This past weekend I inched a little closer to that number and while I'm unsure if 40 will be my prime or not, I am starting to feel okay about this whole aging thing.
In fact, there are some things I wish my 20 or 30-year-old self had known in order to make life easier—especially after becoming a mother.
Sure, I could do without the silver hairs that seem to beg for attention by shooting straight up into the air. (They love to steal the show from my brown locks.) I can admit that stuff like this bothers me but, overall, I'm trying to embrace what comes with getting older—some of which I wish the younger version of myself would have understood.
Here's what I'm learning:
1. I'm more confident the older I get
The young me cowered at the thought of failure—like the time I bowed out of running that half-marathon in my 20s because I never thought my legs could cross that finish line. But today, if I want something, I go after it.
What do I have to lose?
Now, as a writer, I feel empowered to submit pieces of my work without fear of rejection. When I get a pass from an editor, I simply shrug it off and pursue another.
And I don't second-guess my parenting choices anymore. I know I make the best decisions for my own children, and I don't care what society has to say about them.
2. I can (and should) speak up
When I was younger, I never would have told someone if they had offended me. In the workplace especially, I'd keep my lips ironed shut. The thought of conflict made me squeamish, but now, I know that it is vital in all solid relationships. So, today, if you tick me off, you're going to know.
The best part about this lesson is that I get to teach this to my children, too. In life, it's vital that they learn to speak up for themselves in all different types of scenarios.
3. I'm grateful for my mistakes
Without the blunders of my youth (okay, and even the ones from yesterday), how would I learn and grow? Yes, sometimes I regret the mistakes of my 20s (like all of those failed classes in my undergrad), but I now know that they are a part of who I am today.
Those failures are lessons learned in what hard work means to me now, where my determination comes from and why I am now pursuing second grad degree. Honestly, failure has helped me flourish as a woman—and a mother. Whenever I make a mistake, even a parenting mistake, I own it. I talk openly to my children about it so that they understand that mistakes will only make you stronger.
(Plus, most of those mistakes were pretty fun. 😉)
4. I have nothing to prove
When I was younger, I needed the constant encouragement from teachers, my parents and even my husband. But not anymore. I'm noticing I don't care as much about other people's opinions as I get older—I have found a comfort and a confidence in myself. I am at ease with where I am in my life, and I am chasing my dreams because I want to, not because I want to impress anyone.
Same goes for motherhood. I don't have to feed my children all-organic or have them sleeping through the night by six months of age. I don't have to prove that I am a "perfect mother"—because I'm not. My imperfect mothering is perfect for my kids.
5. I'm better at finding balance
I don't rush toward the buzz of those reckless nights anymore like I used to. I spent so many nights in loud bars and hanging out with people I didn't even care for. Today, however, I often settle for the comfort and relaxation the corner of our couch offers me. I know that as a mother I need this balance now more than ever. There are days when I need time away from my loving children, and that's okay.
(But don't forget, you're never too old to chase the occasional wild night, too. You just may pay for it a little more the next day. 😜)
6. I focus on what matters
In my 20s, I found myself giving my time and efforts to everyone and anyone who asked for them—even those who didn't necessarily give back. But today, I put my energy into relationships where we nourish each other. I don't waste my time messing around with people who live negatively or who drain me emotionally. Instead, I spend time with those who challenge me, love me despite my flaws, and support me. Usually, this focus is zeroed in on my children, because right now, being a mother is what matters the most.
I am a woman. Of course, I wish that my boobs were still perky and that my hair color was a sleek dark brown. But I can't escape aging—no one can. Despite all of the eye creams, hair dye, and push-up bras that I buy, I am going to look older—no matter what.
So instead of focusing on all of that nonsense, I'm going to take care of my body by working it, but only because I want to stick around this magical life with these magnificent people for as long as I can.
I want to make more memories with the people I choose to love and who choose to love me. I want to make more mistakes and learn from them—just like I did when I was twenty-five. I just wish I knew that when I was that age. So, today and tomorrow, I'll focus on keeping my mind youthful instead of buying more skincare products—because that's what will really keep me young.
I've got a couple of years left until I hit 40, but I'm thinking that as always, my mother will be right.