Life hasn’t peaked for you unless you believe it has.
I won’t give you my age, but what I will say is that I am no spring chicken. I have often wondered, when about to embark on something new: “Am I too old for this?”
As I age, there is a growing reluctance to attempt new things because I hear that niggling voice in the back of my head saying, “You’re too old, no point in starting now, you would have to be 20 to have a chance at it.” It takes a lot more effort to push that voice down with each passing day, but I do.
I do it because living my best life isn’t about being “age appropriate,” it’s about truly living life to the fullest and doing what I want to do in this lifetime, because all I have is now. I may have many tomorrows, I may have one – so the best course of action is to do what brings me joy today.
Age is relative. Can you be a supermodel at 70? Probably not. At 50, can you start training for the Olympic Games in a sport you have never before attempted? The most honest answer is no. There are limits, but again, while you may not be the next Michael Phelps or GiGi Hadid, that doesn’t mean that you can’t pursue your dreams because it’s no longer societally “age appropriate.”
I detest that term, “age appropriate.” It is the single biggest sower of doubts and killer of dreams. Like some kind of Goldilocks trying that last bowl of porridge, we are conditioned to believe that there is a certain age that is “just right.” Along with that idea, there come “rules” in the game of life:
You should get married in your late twenties, not too early, but not so late that you miss out on the right person; usually around 27-30, old enough to make a wise decision, but young enough not to be derided as being too picky for having waited so long.
Women should have children by age 35 or God forbid, terrible things will happen to them. They are routinely bombarded with the threat of potential health complications and birth defects. If they have children, they are derisively tagged ‘the older mom’ on the playground, badgered by young parents asking obnoxious questions, or offering unsolicited and hurtful commentary like, “I don’t know how you did it at 40. I won’t have any more kids after 30, it’s just too risky.”
Another favorite of mine is that by your 30s, you’re expected to have a steady job, decent income, contribute to a pension, and be looking to buy a house (potentially with the person you married at the “perfect age” of 27).
Life has been neatly delineated for us into a series of chronological events that we must hit like archers striking some mythical bullseye. It is no small wonder people feel like they have peaked by a certain age, that their best years are behind them, and that they “just can’t” because the date on their driver’s license says they’re too old to: swim, take up ballet, start singing, join a marching band, teach, etc.
I have news for you: not every actor, writer, singer, or athlete started their career at a young age. Many just puttered along and kept doing what they loved until that lucky break came their way. There are many people who have smashed age barriers and beat the odds, coming into the best part of their lives well beyond their 20s, 30s and 40s.
Charles Darwin was 50 when he wrote On the Origin of the Species in 1859. Popular fashion designer, Vera Wang, didn’t start designing wedding dresses until she hit 40. Comic book legend Stan Lee was 39 when he wrote Spider-Man. Samuel L. Jackson was 46 when he became a household name with Pulp Fiction, and famous chef Julia Childs debuted on her show, The French Chef, at the sprightly age of 51. This is just the tip of the iceberg, the list is actually exhaustive.
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On a personal note, I have my grandmother to thank for my perseverance. My grandmother emigrated from Poland to Canada when she was 50. Not an easy thing to do given the language barrier, and age. I don’t know too many people who would willingly abandon everything and move to another country to start life over, make a new circle of friends, and look for work while facing potential ageism.
Undaunted by all that, she persevered, learned English, enrolled in college, and became a kindergarten teacher. She didn’t let this idea that she was too old to start learning a new language, to go to college, to become a teacher, or make new friends, stop her from taking the plunge. She just did it.
Fast forward many years later. When I moved to England in my late 30s, and I was going through waves of homesickness, and feeling horribly alone, I often thought of my grandmother and said to myself, “If she could do it at 50, I can do it too.” I reminded myself that not only was she older, but she had a more difficult time because of the initial language barrier.
I took a page out of her book, persevered, and threw myself into creating the life I wanted to have. I made a new, close-knit circle of friends, and eventually landed work in my chosen field. I didn’t let the fact that I was older when I moved to another country alone throw me off my game. I took it in my stride. It was scary, it was hard, but it was worth it.
So why is this feeling of having peaked by a certain age so prevalent amongst us?
The problem lies in the way age is presented in the media. Ageism is alive and well. We are bombarded with images of young, hot, beautiful people, doing fabulous things, and leading exciting lives. When older people do remarkable things we stare slack-jawed that they accomplished something. We rarely celebrate older people as they should be celebrated. The media infantilizes their achievements, or brushes them off as oddities; rare gems that aren’t the norm.
Here is the thing – that’s a lie. We “regular people,” lumps, bumps, wrinkles and all, are the majority. Those hot, young (often airbrushed) bodies are the minority. We have been bamboozled into believing the opposite. We are led to believe that once we have reached that “peak age” and crossed the imaginary boundary society has set for us, we become invisible.
This is where the insidious idea that we have reached our peak in life begins, and where fun, and living life to the fullest ends. We need the media to step up and start celebrating older people’s achievements as the norm, not as an anomaly. We need to celebrate wisdom and experience, not just worship looks and youth.
Society has turned age into a specter that haunts our every decision, consciously, and subconsciously. Should we? Shouldn’t we? How will that make me look at my age? Stop doing this. Stop sabotaging yourself. There is no “peak” – there is today. There is sunshine, there is being in love, there is heartbreak, wonder, laughter, song, and untold things you can choose to do with your life, or there is sitting at home and letting life pass you by because someone said you’re too old to even try.
Take your pick.
I get it, it’s not easy to reprogram the negative voices in our heads, to switch them off, or ignore them all the time. It takes hard work and practice to push those voices down, but do it.
We all age, it is inevitable that we will all be older one day. We will not be 25 forever. So why do we insist on holding ourselves to an impossible standard for the rest of our lives? The key is to keep doing what you’re doing if you enjoy it, and let the naysayers fade into the background.
Remember: life has only peaked if you believe it has.
Does this resonate with you? Have you defied critics and doubters – both internal and external – and pursued a dream or goal past the “peak” years society defines for us? Leave a comment below and share your story with other readers.