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Have you noticed all the articles, TV commercials, and Facebook posts that offer to help people age? Who needs help aging? I can tell you for a fact that I didn’t do a thing and it happened just the same–free of charge!
You start aging as soon as you’re created. At first, the whole process looks promising. You start as a kind of soft potato with happy little sausage arms and legs. Then you stretch out. For a while, your parts don’t seem to fit together really well, and sometimes they don’t work together really well, either. But gradually you develop curves or bulges that become progressively more attractive—especially to people around you.
One day, you look in the mirror, and you’re an approximation of the shiny people on magazine covers. Yahoo! You win! Popular media do their best to convince you that you are now the Center of the Universe. They tell you that all products, services, and entertainments are designed for you and you deserve the best. You are the definition of cool and sexy, the target audience for all being. The lead characters in almost every blockbuster film are near your age—because you are the definition of beauty and clever humor and the inner circle of society.
The only downside of being the Center of the Universe is the responsibility. You have to know the right clothes and hairstyles and jokes. You have to PRODUCE and become IMPORTANT, amassing titles and accomplishments on your resume. You have to find an appropriate counterpart and create a family of sorts. The clock is ticking! You have to collect all the correct symbols of success in the correct brands. This may be the stage in which you begin taking steps to counter the horrific stress.
Soon the celebration starts feeling like a teenage party that went on entirely too long. Your eyes are red in the morning and the space beneath them is purple and saggy. You worry that your waistline is growing too big while your temper is shrinking too small. You spend enough money to support a Third World family on creams and exercise classes and professional development, racing to stay ahead of something or other. What you don’t know yet is there’s no prize for “aging gracefully”—meaning without wrinkles or flab or tacky clothing choices. You fight Nature and hate the clock.
If you’re very lucky, around this time you start to suspect that you aren’t having fun anymore. You may look at the person you chose to be with and realize that person isn’t someone you like much. Or maybe the two of you cling to one another, looking for the golden ticket to…what? Slowly, you realize that the STUFF you worked so hard to collect isn’t as fun as swimming or sledding or playing games with your silliest friends. You stop being impressive and start being…you. You resume the hobbies you loved long, long ago and seek out people who make you laugh or fill you with awe.
At last you know you’re free. You don’t have to earn so much money, because most of what you were paying for didn’t make you happy, anyway. You don’t have to spend time with toxic, boring people. They didn’t really like you, anyway. You don’t have to compromise your values to placate anyone, because your values are you. You’re free to grow and change and believe whatever you believe. And as your shape gradually softens to that happy potato again, you sigh. You didn’t need expensive creams to help you age. You did just fine by yourself.