Me, looking ahead on the morning of my 30th birthday.
There was a wonderful Ask Polly column last week that addressed aging and whether it truly does “get better” as we get older. The letter-writer asked Polly: “Do you feel better now than you did in your 20s? Does anything make more sense? […] Do you know who you are, pretty much?” Polly’s response was really great — go read it, if you haven’t — and it made me wonder how others might answer the question(s). If you’re older than 30, would you say you feel better now than you did in your 20s? Are you happier? Do you feel you know yourself better?
My feelings are this: I am happier now than I was in my 20s, for sure. I know myself better, I feel more stable (financially and emotionally), I’m not as concerned what others think of me, my relationships and friendships are stronger, I’m not as self-centered, I feel a lot more gratitude, I understand my strengths and weaknesses and use them to my (and others’) advantage and improve them when I can, and I don’t let small grievances get me down as much as I did in my 20s. But life isn’t any easier now than it was then. It’s actually a lot more complicated, and I would not have been able to handle the responsibilities I have now when I was 25 (at least, not very well). It’s also a lot more work to stay fit and maintain good health. Hangovers are really bad now. I don’t get anywhere near as much sleep. And if I get an hour to myself on the weekend to do my own thing, it’s a luxury. (This, of course, has more to do with parenthood than getting older, but a lot of people who get older add parenthood to their list of new identities and responsibilities.)
I miss things about my youth, but I wouldn’t go back if I had the chance (well, ok, maybe for a weekend, I would, just to party, sleep in, and spend hours farting around with my friends without a care). I wouldn’t trade what I have and know now for the life I lived fifteen years ago. Would you?