Those of you that don’t know me personally don’t know that I just had a birthday earlier this month. First, let me say that having a birthday so close to Christmas and right after New Year’s Day is certainly not ideal. Many people often forget that it is my birthday because it is usually the time that kids are going back to school and parents are going back to work and everyone is trying to get back to normal after the holidays. The older I get, the happier I am to just forget the day myself. I am definitely not one of those people that celebrates my birthday for the entire week or month of my birth like some of my friends. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I just don’t like drawing attention to myself ever. It makes me uncomfortable. My husband is the same way. My children, on the other hand, count down the days to their birthday and try to celebrate all month long. When my oldest was really young, we used to have to say, “Your birthday is over” all the time because she thought every day was her birthday and expected gifts everyday. She would look at us with sad puppy eyes and repeat back, “My birthday is over.” Anyway, I guess my point is that, to me, a birthday is just another day. You know you always have someone who will ask you on your birthday if you feel any different or if you feel any older. Of course things don’t magically change once the clock strikes midnight on the day of your birth. It just doesn’t work that way. Age is just a number. It doesn’t truly define who you are. Yes, you may feel older in your body with more aches and pains. You may not be able to do things that you once were able to like that cartwheel and split from your cheerleading days, but your age doesn’t make you any less of a person than you were before. Your age is what you make it. It is what is in your heart.
I guess age has been on my mind because I just had a birthday in conjunction with this new Facebook “How Hard Did Aging Hit You” Challenge. I have seen posts all throughout my feed of people posting their very first profile picture next to their current profile picture. You then get to judge them on how much they have aged. I’m sure you have all been seeing how gracefully and not so gracefully your friends have aged. If you must know, here is mine.
What a difference, right? It has made me reflect on not only how I’ve aged, grown, and changed physically but also how much I have done those things mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The person I was then is certainly not the person I am now. My goals and dreams for my life have shifted greatly. Never in a million years did I think back then that I wouldn’t be teaching. Never did I think I would be writing a blog. Do I feel older? Of course I do. I have what I think is arthritis in one of my hands (there I go self-diagnosing again) and sometimes it is hard to get out of bed. In fact, I just said to my daughter this morning that my rib cage feels like I did some intense workout yesterday, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Side note: Do you know what she said back to me? She said, “Well maybe that is a sign that you should be working out!” Thanks a lot you evil child of mine! Anyway, you can look at your age as a negative thing or you can look at it as a blessing. A blessing that you are still here on Earth, a blessing that you get to spend time with the people you love, and a blessing that you get to live the life you were meant to live.
When I look at that picture from 10 years ago compared to the one now, I do see where I have aged. I see those fine lines and wrinkles. I see those age/sun damage spots. I see the few grey hairs poking through. You may not see those things when you look at it, but I do. We all see ourselves differently than the way others see us. We are our own worst critics. You know what else I see that you don’t? I see all the things I’ve battled through and overcome to get those fine lines and wrinkles. I see the sleepless nights and worry over my daughter’s health and so many other things in those dark circles. I see the stress of a Navy wife who has raised 2 kids and supported countless other spouses all alone in all those grey hairs. You know what? I wouldn’t ever trade a single one of those challenges or experiences for a younger looking self. You want to know why? It is because I also see all the happiness and laughter in my life in those laugh lines. I see the joy in my heart in the expression on my face. I see the reflection of my girls in those tired eyes. I see me. The me I am now is the me I want my girls to see. It’s who I want them to look up to. It’s the me I want to share with the world. That girl in the first picture from 10 years ago was naïve. She had no idea how strong she was. She had no clue what the future would hold. She had no idea of who she would become, of who she was meant to be. Age is a number. It tells you how long you have been on this earth. It doesn’t tell you how to act, how to live, or who you are. Those wrinkles, age spots, and grey hairs tell my story. It’s a story filled with hardships, heartbreak, and failure; but it is also a story filled with love, laughter, triumph and joy. I am proud of who I am. I am proud of the road I have traveled. I am proud to show you these two pictures that tell my story in the aging of my face. As the song from The Greatest Showman says, “Look out ‘cause here I come. And I’m marching on to the beat I drum. I’m not scared to be seen. I make no apologies, THIS IS ME.”
When you look at me or your friends who are posting their two pictures for this challenge, don’t judge them on how much they have aged physically. In fact, don’t judge them at all. Reflect on who they are, where they have been, and what they mean to you. Don’t judge yourself when you look at your own two pictures. Remember that you are not defined by how young you look or how old you are. You are defined by who you are on the inside. Is that someone you are proud of? If so, stand up and shout, “THIS IS ME!” because you are who you are meant to be.