The anxious father watches his teenager back out of the driveway and hopes he’ll be safe. Love. It’s what makes a Subaru.
The couple with a few gray hairs decide it’s time to reevaluate their finances and make wills.
The enthusiastic woman reclaims her life, peddling a bicycle along a green path now that she takes vitamins.
A woman eats yogurt like it fulfills her every sexual desire, (and it also happens to make her bowel movements more regular!)
These advertisements have yet to affect my consumer choices, but I recently realized I AM THEIR TARGET AUDIENCE. What? How? When did I become the middle-aged woman drying her hands on a towel, smiling as her muddy children clomp through the house – inspiring the purchase of Tide laundry detergent? When it’s got to be clean, it’s got to be Tide.
I could swear I was still the 20 something who goes on spontaneous road trips and can leg press more than twice her bodyweight. But my search history belies me.
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Where did that girl go? The one without wrinkles? The one who knew loneliness but didn’t know the grief of miscarriages and infertility? The one who said “When I’m a parent, I’ll never do that!” The one who lived a vibrant life, yet felt so unfulfilled? The one who had no idea how much she didn’t know?
AND WHY DO I STILL THINK I’M HER?
Aunt Dawna turns 90 in a couple of months, so it surprised me when she recently said “I think all of us still see ourselves as 20 something.” She says she is shocked when she sees herself in the mirror. You too??
Perhaps we lock into this self-perception because our brain development stops in that decade. Perhaps it’s because so much of our identity is cemented at that point – it is the bridge between childhood and adulthood. Perhaps it’s because that is our “prime”.
The last few months I’ve had flashbacks to my 20’s and its been excruciating. I think about how I felt I had to prove myself. I think about how I treated some people. I think about how I lacked healthy boundaries. I think about how I didn’t take advantage of silly things like travel miles, or I didn’t start investing sooner… My list of cringe-inducing memories just keeps growing. IF ONLY I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW! (Although, in reality, I haven’t actually grown up or learned that much since then.)
Why am I cringing over my 20’s when I was doing pretty well? Why am I not cringing over high school when I had no idea how to dress my body, no clue how to apply myself and be ambitious, and had soooo many emotional scars to deal with?
Well, who knows. Maybe I’ll start cringing about those now too. All I’m saying is that it sucks to suddenly look at my “prime” through a critical lens. And I need to stop.
It’s interesting how history books keep being re-written. Things that were once celebrated are now vilified, and things that were once overlooked are now highlighted. History changes depending on present!
The same is true for our personal histories. But let’s try not to do it the cringy way I’ve been doing it. Let’s do it in a way that’s helpful. The way we see traumas and trials can soften into lessons learned and strength grown. The way we see our naivety can turn into gratitude for the passage of time. The way we see missed opportunities can encourage us to stop putting off important things. The way we handled relationships can remind us of how good forgiveness feels and apply it to current situations.
I can’t go back in time and appreciate the waist I had at 25 (which I thought was unacceptable at the time but would kill for now.) But I can slap on some moisturizer to take care of my 37 year old skin, and still embrace some of who that 25 year old was – a hard worker, an adventurer, and a tireless friend.