What Would You Tell Your 35-Year-Old Self?
Women give hard-won advice on aging well
(This article previously appeared on NewAgeAging.com.)
In a recent post on my New Age Aging blog, I reflected on the "aha" moments I had attending my 50th-year high school reunion in August. Now I am beginning to hear from women in their early to late 30s who are wanting their moments of clarity when it comes to aging well. Delphine wrote on my About page on Aug. 27: “I’m happy to have found your blog. I believe that aging well is something that you can learn to do — and I want to learn how! Thank you for creating this positive space!”
I e-mailed a woman who approached me after a speech I gave and asked her if there were any specific subjects I could write on that would appeal to her and her age group. This was her response: “I think women my age need to focus on keeping it real, not beating ourselves up. We take on a lot and always do for others. We need to have fun and embrace aging. I like the European style of not focusing on being perfect…I am a big fan of aging gracefully.”
That got me to thinking, if I and other women had the opportunity to talk to our 30-something-year-old selves, and say…hmmm, if I knew then what I know now…what would we say? So I asked, and my readers answered with their hard-won advice:
Linda B., 68
Stop wasting all that time worrying.
Be true to yourself.
Stop working so hard to the detriment of your family.
In marriage: You do not have to be right all the time. Let it go!
In work: Don’t ever let them see you cry! I was smarter than the men I worked with back then but didn’t realize it.
Every dog has their day. Be patient.
Margaret B., 51
Surround yourself with kind and genuine people — they come in all shapes, sizes and income categories.
Don’t follow the glitter and the glitz all the time. In the end it usually loses its sparkle.
Don’t waste your time on men that don’t love you more than you love them.
It is OK to be single, no matter what the magazines, your friends or co-workers say.
Don’t live beyond your means but make sure to treat yourself in big or small ways. You work hard and you deserve it. Whether it is a trip (near or far), a new pair of shoes, a pedicure or a glass of your favorite wine and a good book, embrace and enjoy!
Dear Me at 35: You are so worthy of being cherished, loved and respected. Tell yourself this every day and believe it to be true. Only be in relationships, including the one with yourself, that believe this about you and treat you this way.
I wish I had known, at 35, in my gut, that I was beautiful. By that I mean I wish I had risked taking pride in my looks, feeling foxy, flirty, admiring my own body, my smile, my curls, been willing to invite attention to myself, relishing attention when it came my way. I was raised to be modest and self-deprecating, and I got that all too right!
I wish I had, by 35, richer experiences of my own sexuality, my own pleasures. I had borne two children and been married twice by 35! Only later did I welcome full sexual pleasures of my own, with a partner and without.
Ann R., 63
On parenting: Even though at 35 I was not yet a parent, I became one at 38. I would tell Mother Ann to let go of the idea of being a perfect parent. That if the best I could do was to love unconditionally my son, then I would be giving him the greatest gift and example for how to live. I just now realized the power of the gift of love.
Susan B., 68
After losing my Mom suddenly at a young age, I was very focused on appreciating each day and not taking the blessings in my life for granted. Bad things happen to good people all the time. Maybe I would have told myself not to worry so much.
Beverly N., 68
Late-in-life relationships: Having been single for the majority of my life, I am blessed to be in a new relationship at this time of my life (I’m 68 and he’s 75). I feel so fortunate to have had all of the experiences that I have had as a single person to understand the importance of “being myself,” “loving fully,” “being happy being single” and “being present in every moment.” The experiences that I had and the lessons I have learned have given me the wisdom and insight to love with abandon and yet maintain my own “self." It’s truly a gift.
Ann O., 62
Don’t doubt your feelings. They are real, yours and valid. Speak them out when you want and must.
Do no harm. But take no crap.
You teach people how to treat you.
Keep those shoulders back and show those breasts! Be proud!!! (from my Girl Scout Leader, Mrs. Ludden)