Getting older ain’t so bad

Vanessa standing in front of a mirror

I’m 41, and I will admit to being the type of person who does worry a bit about getting older. Not obsessively. Just a bit. Now I’m well aware that the age range of my blog readership is quite wide, and there will be people reading this who are 20 years older than me saying “41? You have NO idea what getting older is all about yet”, and there will be people reading this who are 20 years younger than me saying “41? Yeah, I can’t imagine how it feels to be THAT old!”. But whatever your perception of 41 is, we can all agree at least that I am older than I was when I was 21. And you know what? It’s not so bad. Like most women, sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and think “Hey, you’re not looking so bad for 41 girl!” and other times I look in the mirror and wonder who the hideous wrinkly is looking back at me.

Every time you roll over to a new decade it feels like quite a big deal. When you turn 20 and leave your teenage years behind, you realise that you’re now a grown-up. It’s quite a shock. When you turn 30 you realise that you weren’t as much of a grown-up at 20 as you thought you were, but now you’re REALLY a grown-up and had better start acting like one. Then when you turn 40 you give up worrying about being a grown-up. I was actually quite depressed about turning 30, it really felt like I was done being young. I was living in Las Vegas at the time and chose to go jet-skiing on Lake Mead for my 30th birthday. I had never jet-skied before, and it was the best choice I could have made. Just being out on that vast expanse of water, with the beautiful scenery around and blue sky and sunshine above, put everything into perspective and made me feel fantastic. Here I am on that day (don’t worry, I didn’t actually take my daughter out jet-skiing with me, that was just for the photo!) –

Vanessa ona jet-ski on Lake Mead

I was less worried about turning 40, I had done a better job of resigning myself to it leading up to the day. For my 40th I went for a weekend in London with my lovely partner Neil. We live less than two hours from London but we never get to go away just the two of us, so it was a real treat and that’s what I chose to do rather than having a party or anything (I’m really not a party person). Here we are enjoying our time away together…both on our phones; the picture is actually a reflection of ourselves that we are photographing in a strange mirror sculpture thingy they had there (Do you see? No? Never mind) –

Vanessa and NeilVanessa in hotel room

People often say that some of the good things about getting older are that you lose a lot of your insecurities, you become more confident in yourself, and you care less what other people think about you. All that is true, but what really made me write this post was a realisation I had yesterday. I went to an audition for a little part in a TV advert. The other people auditioning were all around my age, and whilst in the waiting room we smiled and said hello and goodbye to each other as people arrived and left, we exchanged a couple of compliments about clothing or hair, wished each other good luck, commented on the weather etc. Nothing major, but it was all quite relaxed. I have only just got back into acting over the last 6 months or so. The last time I properly attended auditions and castings of this type was in my late 20s, and attending auditions with people in their 20s was very different – the girls eyed each other up and down passing harsh judgments (or if they didn’t, then you felt that they were which was as bad!), girls were bitching amongst themselves about others, any pleasantries that were exchanged felt false, it was a brutal and scary place to be in an audition waiting room at that age.

Of course I’m not saying that every person in their 20s is bitchy and insecure, and every person in their 40s is kind and confident, of course not, there are all types of people in all the age groups. But my personal experience and perception is that generally, when you get to our age, you realise that life is much better if you’re warm and pleasant to others, and just accept yourself for who you are, warts and all. So for those of you who are still in your teens, 20s and 30s, don’t worry about reaching 40, it’s really not so bad. As for 50+, well come back and ask me in 10 years time.

P.S. The photo of me with the mirror at the top was taken last weekend at my friends Gretchen and John’s house. I shouldn’t just use a picture of their house without at least posting a link to their website which is all about the beautiful and unusual music they perform together: http://www.worldtreemusic.com/

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39 responses to “Getting older ain’t so bad

  1. Since I turned 25 I’ve had this “Oh God I’m almost 30!!!!!!” voice screaming in my head. I still have 2 years to go until that happens, but I really dread it. I know it’s silly, but I feel like right now I’m still not a real grown up?? I dunno what it is about 30 that has me so scared. My husband turned 30 (he’s 31 now) and he seems OK with the whole thing.

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    • Yes, 30 feels like a big one. I’ve heard other people say the same as me, that they found turning 30 hard, but then 40 was easier. You soon get used to being 30 though so don’t worry. It’s easier for men though, they tend to get better with age and they know it!

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  2. You haven’t aged a bit Vanessa. You rock at 40!

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  3. Forty? You’re gorgeous. You talked about being grown up at 30 and the 40. I am old enough to be your mother and I’m still not all grown up. Young at heart and all that. May you live life long and well.

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  4. I think you’ve got the hang of that aging thing, and fifty won’t be so bad either. I remember 40 and I remember 50, but I’m not looking forward to sixty. I always say, you don’t have to grow up, you just have to grow old. I say you’re as old as you feel, and we happen to own two SeaDoos that we still ride like maniacs on the lake. It is interesting how sore you can get from bouncing around on the surface of a lake at sixty miles an hour, the next day.

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    • I’m not dreading 50 yet, it’s when you get past the half way mark you start thinking about it isn’t it! But I’m sure when I get there I’ll find it’s not so bad, as I did with the others. As you say, I think I’m getting the hang of it now.

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  5. Fariy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you’re young at heart. For as rich as you are, it’s much better, by far, to be young at heart. Stay young at heart. T

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  6. I’m coming up to 35 soon and this was really nice to read. Thanks
    Oh, and you look fantastic šŸ™‚

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  7. Thank you Vanessa! Very sweet of you to mention us! Thank you for modeling the vintage clothes – you were perfect and hope you find the pix from the shoot to be useful! You are gorgeous and as someone in ‘your age range’ – I appreciated every word you had to say!

    Hugs and love,

    Gretchen

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    • You’re welcome Gretchen! You should do a blog yourself to speak about your music and your writing and your various other pursuits! It’s good fun, and it gives you an excuse to procrastinate on other things that you know you should be doing but don’t feel like! (I’m not saying you do that, I’m referring to myself!).
      x

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  8. I recognise many of the things you have discussed in this post, Vanessa. I am 47 now and, yes, there are some mornings when I look in the bathroom mirror and think, ‘Who the heck is that looking back at me? He looks kind of familiar, but…’
    I didn’t feel I truly grew up until we had the first of our two amazing children. NOW, I feel like an adult, but, paradoxically, I probably have more sense of adventure and fun than I ever had. Growing older is a very mysterious adventure, and I am doing my best just to enjoy it. By the way, you look fabulous at 41. šŸ™‚

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    • Thank you Ken. Yes, I think there are certain times in our lives when we feel we have to start behaving like proper sensible adults, often like you say when you first have children, but then as the children grow older you revert back to fun seeking. On that basis, old age should be a real blast!

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  9. 40 is the new 20, or something like that. I was more worried about hitting 30 than I was turning 40. And that seems a long time ago now. If you’re settled in your life and know what you want, age doesn’t matter. Live your dreams!

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  10. I loved this post and had a slightly different experience…turning 30 was a big celebration for me! I was like Woohoo! My generation now rules the world, and there is nothing anyone can do about it! We won’t mention how arrogant, short-sighted, and wrong that was šŸ™‚ But it is the way I felt! I was much more worried about turning 40. But I have to say that after that, the other milestones have been much easier. (I’m 62 now.) Now it’s more like “Look at me!” I made it this far! Now every day is a celebration…which is much better than every ten years šŸ™‚
    By the way, have you mentioned where in England you live? If so, I can’t find it or remember it. But the reason I ask is that there is another blogger on WordPress I follow who lives in Thatcham, Berkshire, and I’d like to “introduce” the two of you. The title of his blog is “Slouching Toward Thatcham”, which makes me giggle every time I see it.

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    • It’s encouraging to see how the older people get, the more positive they seem to be about getting older! It’s the real younguns that worry about it the most.

      I’m in Kent, so that’s a couple of counties away from Berkshire, not a million miles. I’ll go and check out his blog then…

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      • And here I am, popping over from Berkshire. As a fellow 41-year old, I can entirely sympathise. I have to admit having a huge wobble about turning 30. In many ways I felt ‘older’ than I did when I turned 40, which really wasn’t that big a deal. I’m certainly aware that I’m not as healthy or physically capable as I used to be – being diagnosed type 2 diabetic two years ago didn’t help – but I’m also much less concerned these days about how other people perceive me and focus more
        on how I perceive myself.

        I now think of myself as the sum of my experiences, whereas 10 years ago I ‘d say my (much) less mature self saw me as the sum of other people’s perceptions.

        I’ll just slouch back towards Thatcham now … šŸ™‚

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  11. Hey Vanessa, I’m 72 and I guess I’ll have to be the first to tell you that getting old sucks and anybody that tells you that they are enjoying living in their later years more than ever sure must have had a terrible life. I can suggest a couple of things that might make your older days a little more pleasant and help you keep your independence (and believe me independence will become more and more important to you) as you age. One suggestion is don’t give up your day job and the other is that you work diligently in building and maintaing your physical strengh and flexibility. When you keep your strengh up your health will usually improve with it. I’ve been a gym rat most of my life and I’m still in there 3 times a week. Will there be achs and pains? Absolutely, but when you get this old you’re going to hurt anyway and at least this way you can come and go as you please with no aid needed and If you want to travel then just sadfdle up.
    So just grit your teeth and bear down…
    signpilot

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    • Thank you for the tips. I’m terrible at exercising and keeping fit, I should really start getting into the habit now. Having seen a few relatives lose their independence, I can certainly appreciate how important it is to try and maintain it for as long as possible. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, and I shall remember the example you have set of 3 times a week to the gym at 72 – impressive!

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  12. Great post! You rock at 40!

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  13. I find that every birthday lately is about two weeks of periodic depression, followed by a realization that I shouldn’t care that much about the numbers and just be happy. I always have a birthday BBQ/kickball party. There is something about kicking that spongy, bouncy ball around to remind me of the kid in me no matter how old I get. Plus, it sneaks in some excersise. Looking great at 41 BTW!

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  14. The other thing is I haven’t had kids yet and I tell you I hit 35 and my biological clock stopped ticking and started screaming shrilling instead. LOL I keep telling myself that I have time but it seems less true everyday.

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    • Yes, that’s a tricky one. A friend was going through the same thing a few years back, and then when she was around 35, she admitted to herself that actually she didn’t really want to have kids at all, but she just kept thinking that she “should” because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Once she had acknowledged though that she didn’t want to, she was much happier and certainly enjoys the freedom that being child-free brings! I read some research recently which found that people without children are overall happier than people with – so even though having children brings lots of wonderful things into your life, it doesn’t necessarily bring increased happiness!

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  15. As you’re learning, we grow into our skin, even if gets a bit wrinkly around the knees and elbows (and yes, under the chin too). My father allowed us to call him an old man when he was 91. It wasn’t until he was around 95 or so that he admitted he might no longer plant an acorn with an expectation that he might see it grow into a tree; my mother on the other hand wanted to lumber herself with the adjective way too early, in his opinion, although he did capitulate and allow it when she turned 88 (anything to make his “Lovely” happy, I think rather than a change of heart)

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  16. Karyn Madorin

    Hi Vanessa,
    Thanks for the great article. I’m a 40 something and I can relate to your post quite well!!

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  17. This was a great read, and I don’t think I stumbled upon it accidentally! I’ve been working on a poem I’m tentatively calling “26,” and it’s about the ridiculous dread I’ve recently associated with being near 30 and what 26 really means to me! It’s harsh. But as mostly everyone has mentioned, you’re certainly making 41 look fabulous!

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    • Thank you so much. As I, and some others have said, turning 30 feels worse than turning 40, so just grit your teeth and get through 30 and after that, hey, it’s not so bad šŸ˜‰ Good luck with the 26 poem, sounds very interesting.

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