How hard did aging hit you?
This is the wording of the latest social media challenge making the rounds. The wording is accompanied by a Facebook user’s collage containing their first-ever profile picture and their most recent.
I resisted at first, partially because it is impossible to make my original picture and my current picture symmetrical (the 2007 picture of Tenley and me is taken from a distance; my current profile picture is a headshot). I still shared it on Instagram, but the inability to make the two images symmetrical was a hurdle.
The other hurdle? I am not a fan of the challenge’s name.
“How hard did aging hit you?” makes it sound as though we are at the mercy of aging. I also almost physically recoil at the imagery related to “hitting.”
First, Here’s What I Think
It’s not that aging doesn’t bring hits
I’ve had my share of adversity as I have grown older. I suspect anyone could say the same thing. Wayne’s job loss (twice), my mom’s death, the consequences of making financial decisions that turned out to be poor choices.
For all the pain, every one of those “hits” have been a part of making me better and forcing new growth. Wayne’s job loss made us communicate differently as a couple. My mom’s death brought priorities into sharp relief. Poor financial decisions made me be crystal clear to my kids about what to look out for in their spending decisions as young adulthood approached.
The work world has changed, and I refuse to take an “I’m a victim of being “hit” mentality into my career path
I am a mid-life person and have started a career in a new (to me) profession. I have been involved in the profession (editing/writing) on a freelance basis and as a pastime for most of my career. (In addition, my co-workers from Healthy Kids would no doubt argue that my tendency to edit everything gave me away.)
The work world is changing. People don’t stay in their positions as long as they used to. Offices are literally structured differently, and more people (such as me) work 100% from home. People communicate in less direct ways (most of my communication is by email and Slack).
I have had peers lose opportunities because they “couldn’t keep up.” I don’t want to be blind to my shortcomings, but I will fight hard to be well-versed on changes in technology and work life. These are not things people who have caved to being “hit” are willing or able to do.
Life is so much broader than pictures from the beginning of Facebook until now can communicate
Most of these “first profile pictures” come from 2007 (or so). And this is a non-scientific observation, but most of the participants are women. The number of men chiming in when I asked about this on Facebook was tiny. And one of them pointed out how military service had shaped him. Not that people aren’t still serving in the military, but the period of time covered by Facebook’s existence just doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of life’s influence on our evolution. There’s more to life (looking at you, people who survived Vietnam) than our children’s prom pictures and our travelogues (not that those aren’t great!).
Here’s the version that is true to the challenge – first profile picture (2007 at Xanadu in NYC) and most recent (headshot by Debby Stubing).
Now, Here’s What My Wise Friends Think
I asked my friends and acquaintances on Facebook and Twitter for a substitute for the “being hit” imagery.
Here’s their hivebrain response:
“A potter’s wheel. Being guided and shaped from the inside and the outside over time. Sometimes breaking under weak spots when life spins out of control, but rebuilt with careful attention to be stronger in those areas.”
“Aging is a beautiful thing when you do it with health and a really good dose of wisdom.”
“Aging isn’t hitting me at all. It’s more like massaging me gently towards the inevitable grave.”
“Chicken or egg? Do we tell ourselves we are getting older & feel that way or, depending on one’s health, it happens. It happens. But it can happen if we are young, middle-aged or older. I like how poet @maggiesmithpoet writes each day: ‘keep moving.'”
“Evidence of a life lived”
“For a while I was annoyed that I hadn’t planned for a life that lasted so long. But I’d have to admit that’s better than planning for a long life and not getting one.”
“… hey, I’m 10 years older”
“How far I’ve come…” and “flourished”
“How has life shaped you?” would be better…
“How I have been refined…”
“…how many wonderful memories you have made between these two pictures!”
“I am wiser”
““If we’re lucky, we’ll all get old. — Mom”
“I’m a good single barrel whiskey that’s been aged to perfection. The older the whiskey ages, the more it’s worth and enjoyed…”
“Less as a sledgehammer and more like a woodcarver’s chisel. Time and experiences shape us. But it also grows us in new ways, like a tree grows around damage or obstacles.”
“…like being a teenager all over again. A blank palette. What are you going to do with your life?”
“Living life unfiltered!”
“Maybe like the patina on copper? Or weathered wood?”
“Natural wisdom, growing beautiful, enlightenment of inner peace and knowledge”
“Older, wiser and healthier. How I took better care of myself for this thing called life.”
“Reducing a sauce down to increase flavor and strength!”
“Seasoning. Maturing. Becoming. Thriving.”
“Slide down a sometimes bumpy hill. Leaves you bruised and confused.”
“Sweet caress of a mother? Gentle head pat from Father Time?”
“…the current state is much better”
“The ‘look I’ve changed over time and I’m supposed to be devastated challenge'”
“We don’t age, we just get better, like a fine wine.”
My friend Stacy said,
In the process I’ve birthed and raised two kids, co-authored a book, written hundreds of articles, earned a good living, turned my marriage into an even more deeply satisfying partnership and stood up loudly and proudly for things that matter the most to me.
A handful of pictures don’t tell that story and never will. I have wrinkles and fat in places I’d rather not. I have bags under my eyes and a double chin. My breasts are baby chewed and my backside rather more spread out than it was when I was who I was so long ago.
I also have memories that of a life that, while not always as well lived as I have liked, has meaning and value.
No challenge can tell that extremely important truth nor can any comparison pictures tell the honest truths of our authentic lives.
As for me, I lean toward the image of a glassblower’s torch, transforming something that already had potential into a more beautiful sculpture, demonstrating a few imperfections, some sharp edges, and more nuanced curves than it had before.
Lastly, I’ll let my smart and insightful friend, Caroline, have the final word.