Getting older is strange. Some days I feel as if I'm still a sprightly 18-year-old. And then the next morning, I get out of bed with a crick in my neck and a daughter fussing in her crib, and I start to wonder how it's actually been a decade since I graduated from college. So far, aging has been full of surprises for me.
1."I'm only 35, but mostly, it's little things that hit me hard, like hearing songs from my teenage years being played on classic rock stations. I don't ever take that well, LOL. And when I see all those lists of 'Things That Happened a Decade Ago,' I realize they're not talking about 1994. Seeing fashion that I remember as a kid or teen coming back around is wild. Now I know why my mother said it was strange for her when bell-bottoms came back in style in the early 2000s."
2."I'm in my 40s, and I'm surprised by how little I care about pop culture, the latest fashions, and the hottest music. I used to really care about all of these things and kept up with all the trends. It made me realize that I'm no longer the audience for these things, and that's fine. I am 100% comfortable and happy with my skinny jeans, side part, and '90s grunge music."
3."I'm in my mid-30s, and I still love myself and my body much more than I ever did in my 20s. I eat pretty consciously, and I stretch and exercise four or five times per week. Even with these lifestyle choices, though, my body still acts up in ways it didn't in my teens and 20s. I get sciatic nerve pain that lasts a few weeks, and I wake up with random aches if I sleep in a weird position. Despite all this, I am happier in my body than I was when I was younger."
4."I was surprised at how quickly I turned on the younger generations. I suddenly found everyone in their 20s to be very annoying. It really did happen overnight, and I was shocked when I referred to someone who was 22 or 23 as a kid."
5."I am an incredibly harsh critic of my body as I age. I remember what I looked like, felt like, and could do when I was a size 2, and now that I am in my 50s and my body has changed so much (the toll of having children and the aging process), I barely recognize myself in the mirror. But that is not the reaction others have: Most people just see a spunky, strong woman who doesn't look her age. Still, I constantly judge myself compared with what I physically was."
6."The misconception that menopause means the end of being a woman. I come from Asia, where people don’t really talk about it. I met a man, and when I told him I'd reached menopause (I happen to be one of those women who hit menopause before 50), he looked at me and said, 'I’m so sorry, but you’re so young.' I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh."
7."I remember a funny quote from Samantha on Sex and the City, which was, 'One day you will find a gray hair, and it won’t be on your head.' I believe her character was at least in her mid-40s at the time. I figured this would happen to everyone eventually, but not so SOON. I was in my mid-30s when the first one popped up, and it's a good thing I wax!"
8."As cliché as this will sound, I've realized 'it's never too late' to start something new. I didn't start any kind of skincare or workout routine until I was well into my 30s. I feel a million times better for it too. I quit smoking, I quit drinking every single night, etc. We are so conditioned to believe that we just start falling apart once we hit 30, so there's no use in trying to better ourselves. That cannot be further from the truth. You still have a perfectly strong body that you can move, so do it! Stop letting age define you and your decisions to keep going, keep moving, and keep taking care of yourself. I'm almost 40, and I can honestly say that I feel so much better than I did when I was 19 and not taking care of myself at all."
9."The idea of 'forever.' I thought 'forever' was a goal. For example, when I was younger, I thought I’d find my dream job and happily be there forever. I’d find the perfect partner, and we would be together forever. I had no idea about the amount of change and transition that would happen, making 'forever' an unrealistic and unhealthy expectation. Some people, some jobs, and some experiences are just meant to be a steppingstone, not a permanent road."
10."How differently you're treated in the workplace. I was once overlooked for full-time jobs, but now I am a member of management making great overtime pay just because I'm older."
11."As I get older, watching parents and grandparents age is one of the strangest things. Whenever I have questions big or small, or when I need advice, I am constantly going to my parents for answers. Yet I see how my parents are beginning to take care of their own parents — my grandparents — as if they are children again. It's strange and slightly unsettling to watch this gradual shift happen. We all know there is a point where children become parents and then, in a sense, become like children again. But I'm realizing more and more that where that shift occurs is extremely gradual and imperceptible."
12."I'm on the younger end of the spectrum at 27, but I've found that puberty doesn’t really end in your late teens. When I was 24 years old, my chest grew about two cup sizes, my hips widened, and my upper legs changed shape as part of that change in fat distribution. I used to be able to pull off a 'boyish' look with fitted clothes, then had to readjust my entire wardrobe for a new body shape."
13."I've realized just how much lonelier it is when all of your friends start getting married and having kids, but you feel you have nothing in life."
14."That adults don't actually know what they're doing. Fifty percent of my job is winging it, and the other 50% is me saying, 'Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.' Adults don't know everything. Turns out, they're just better at winging it and hiding the fact that they still don't have the answers."
15."My energy level. I’m 41, and I am blown away at how different I feel from even 10 years ago. And by 'different,' I mean exhausted. All. The. Time."
16."My ability (and desire) to drink alcohol. Back in college, I could drink until 3 a.m. and wake up early the next morning to write a paper. Now, in my early 30s, alcohol really affects my sleep. Plus, I'll be nursing a headache after a mere two glasses of wine. I also don't have any interest in drinking the way I used to. I'll enjoy one cocktail with dinner, and then I'm done for the evening. The idea of a terrible hangover, previously unknown to me, is one of the most unpleasant feelings I can imagine."
17."I've lost a lot of my ambition as I age. I'm not sure whether this is a result of aging or retiring, but I've noticed the shift. I always thought I would continue traveling. I've been to 42 states, and I planned to visit the remaining eight, plus Puerto Rico. But traveling as I did when I was younger isn't really important to me anymore. Also, in many states, if you're over a certain age, you can audit any class at a state university for free. I always envisioned that I'd take every class, from astronomy to astrology. I've been retired for almost six years and haven't even looked at what classes are available."
18."Hair. It's thinning out on my head, but it seems to be growing out of control everywhere I don't want it to be. Ear hair? Chin hair? Nose hair? Seriously!? I found a 3-inch-long hair in my eyebrow, yet I'm going bald on my head."
19."I've been pleasantly surprised by the mental and emotional development that comes with aging. At 25, a switch flipped in my brain, and I became a lot more confident in what I do and don’t like in my life. I became less anxious about what others think about my appearance. It’s been very liberating. Hopefully, this is something younger women can look forward to as well. It does get better!"
20."Feeling as if you should still be 30 when you're 60, then being surprised by your own 'old lady knuckles.'"
21."I'm 37, and I still don't feel like an adult. I do all the 'adult things,' like paying bills, cooking, buying groceries, etc. But I still don't feel like a real adult. As a child, I always imagined becoming an adult meant you eventually started to feel mature and different, but I still haven't experienced this feeling."
22."The startling realization that when your hair starts to turn gray, it ALL goes gray...not just on top of your head."
23."As I have gotten into my more senior years, I've realized how many foods I used to eat all the time and really enjoy that I just can’t consume any longer. I never even thought about this when I was younger. Pizza, for example, is one food I used to love, but today, my body doesn't react great or digest it well when I eat it. And I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in over six years now. I was always a light social drinker, but suddenly, alcohol started tasting really bitter to me. I took that as a sign that my body was telling me I shouldn’t drink it anymore."
24."I’m always shocked at how young the models look when I see makeup ads. I used to think they looked so old when I was a kid. I remember being in my 20s and realizing they looked young to me, which meant I was officially 'old.'"
25."How the process of aging can differ so greatly for different people. I got my first gray hairs at 25. Meanwhile, my sister is almost 40 and has yet to go gray, despite having a teenage son, which is arguably one of the most stressful things a person can experience!"
26."My sister and I always used to laugh at the 'old people' who would say, 'It's going to rain! I can feel it in my knee!' Welp, I get migraines and joint pain from pressure changes now."
27.And finally, "Recognizing that I am fully turning into my mother. I swear, some of the things that come out of my mouth these days...just recently, I chastised my husband for forgetting to put on our daughter's socks before leaving the house. I've pretty much become a boomer!"
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Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.