I think so much of getting older and life in general is choosing how you look at things. For me, I don’t associate physical difficulty with age since it started so young. So I genuinely don’t notice the things like “wow my knees hurt a little now!” because…I have way bigger pain than that and always have. Ditto body changes, lol, going from able to disabled in the way I did was so extreme that like, tiny fine lines or whatever…uh, don’t really phase me, lol.
But, even though I’m disabled I’m still a relatively young disabled person (so I heal like a young person, for example, that’s a HUGE advantage) and I do see some areas that are changing that are more in the realm of normal person aging. I think how I look at them and feel about them, though, is atypical and colored by my unique circumstances. For example, I will need a bottom tooth retainer thing in the next couple of years because I guess your teeth shift as you age? Who knew! If I wear it at night it will straighten them but if I don’t they will keep shifting and I’ll have more cavities.
I intend on doing it in the next 1-3 years. Now am I all “oh man now I’m old boo hoo sad” about it? Uh, no. LOL. Actually my first thought was, “Well that makes sense! My teeth have treated me so well for 35 years, I guess it’s time to give them a bit of extra attention.” and then immediately I felt like, “omg I am so fortunate to be in such a rarefied position that I can choose to do something that is basically preventative so that when I am actually elderly my teeth will hopefully be pretty ok and I can still eat delicious things!” My grandma has false teeth and says they are a huge fucking pain in the ass. She would have loved to live during such technology and to have been rich enough to afford it. So I’m actually kind of excited to get this done. It’s like depositing money in the market and waiting for it to compound. I think 70 year old AllHat will be like, “good call young and spry 35 year old AllHat” as she bites into an apple while zipping around the earth on her spaceship (LET ME DREAM!).
I am also having lots of food sensitivities out of nowhere! I have heard anecdotally this happens to a lot of people in their 30s and 40s. Weird! I am a food person, through and through, and I have always loved being able to eat anything. Some foods I can’t eat now are heritage foods for me, for lack of a better word: foods that are part of my culture that I ate from childhood on. But is this like, a dramatic loss I must now mourn because life has changed forever. Um, no. It’s natural and it makes sense! I spent exactly 2 hours being upset about it to get it out of my system, and feel sorry for myself, and then I was like, “let’s look up some tasty recipes!”
Plus, my stomach has been a god damned trooper! She has taken mountains of horrendous pain meds like a BOSS; I always thought of it as my iron stomach. Even still I can handle lots of meds that make others sick. How lucky given my needs! AND on top of that for 35 years I ate absolutely anything I wanted. Like, with total abandon too. Have you ever had a deep fried hot dog that is filled with cheese and then covered in ramen? I have! So now, as a rich person in my mid 30s I have to avoid a few types of food items? But can still eat millions of delicious things? That doesn’t sound like a tragedy to me. That sounds…normal. Some people have horrible allergies from birth and never get what I already enjoyed. And most people don’t live in areas with such diverse food as I do, so they don’t even ever try half the things I still get to have.
I basically don’t really believe in mourning the inevitable with the exception of the loss of a person or major trauma or lost ability. Other than that…I mean to me it’s the same as sobbing hysterically at the end of every day because the sun is going down. Life is constant change and it is all temporary. That’s both wonderful and difficult. But I simply cannot waste my precious time on this planet crying over things that will happen. I will get old or I will no longer exist. That’s a fact. My disability will get a lot worse over time. Fact. And? The show must go on!
I think very brief times of sadness are ok and vital at times, but they must be brief and followed up with a shift in view. And then you have to move on from them. Sometimes I give myself 2 hours, I set an alarm and say, “I have 2 hours to be furious or upset about this thing, and then I’m done and moving on.” I highly recommend that tactic. Get it out, but then get on with things. There are still flowers and breezes and laughter and delicious smells to smell.
When it comes to the whole doors closing as you age thing, again I don’t fully associate that with being old because a lot of doors slammed in my face when disability hit, so early teen years for me. I never lived with the delusion that I was unstoppable or had no limits or would never die. That’s a huge advantage now though it was extremely difficult and lonely then. Having been forcibly pushed out of the workforce, and out of hobbies, and unable to have kids, and out of social things- so those are losses that registered as such but I’ve mostly moved past them. There’s not that much time and I don’t want to spend it wallowing.
I can’t really imagine being sad about stuff I didn’t choose at all. Like I’m not sad that I didn’t teach English abroad. That’s a thing I could have done at the time physically, and I thought about it, and didn’t do it and now I’m definitely not able enough. It seems unlikely now that I’ll ever have the chance to live abroad, but I chose not to do it. I didn’t want to be in a school setting, I didn’t like the idea of being stuck in one place based on assignments, it scared me a little because I wasn’t well traveled, and I was really into the guy I was seeing (husband!) so I was like, “nah!” and did other stuff instead. I still think it’s possible we’ll live abroad, but if it never happens that’s literally because I prioritized other things. If I had done that I wouldn’t have had the experiences I did have, so many of which were awesome. Just like I don’t cry when I order the chicken and then…get the chicken, I can’t see being upset over something I clearly didn’t want enough to prioritize.
No one gets everything in life! If you prioritize making buckets of money probably you have less free time and balance. If you prioritize never denying yourself anything you probably cultivate less discipline. If you prioritize discipline and structure you probably cultivate less spontaneity. This is all natural to me and I want to live with nature not against it. I guess sometimes when I hear lamentations of being old or doors closing I want to ask, not in a mean way but in an honest way, “what is your expectation?” Because I genuinely don’t get it, like, is your expectation that you get all the options forever even though you clearly don’t want a lot of them? That you never get old? That the knees and back that you didn’t even have to think about for 40 some years are suddenly saying, “hey, we’re here! be gentler with us!” That doesn’t seem like a tragedy to me, it seems natural.
And I think my last thing I think about a lot in relation to this is the elephant in the thread which is AGEISM whom I’ve always considered the more popular sister of ableism. In places where no one would openly mock a person for being disabled it’s totally ok to do so with age. Right, boomer? We generalize and dehumanize anyone older in our society and I think this absolutely has impacted how terrified my generation is of aging and explains why people who are so young are concerned. I remember the first time I heard a woman lament her age. She was 23 and I was 21. She said I was lucky because she missed being the youngest person in the bar. I wanted to tell her I’d been bar hopping since like 17 but I don’t think that was her point . But seriously, that’s really young. I remember when my completely able bodied friend turned 28 and had a bit of a breakdown over aging and wanting to go back in time. At 28. She said she felt “pre-middle-aged”. I also remember a guy saying that a bartender was “pretty hot for a woman over 25”. Check out any greeting cards sections for the cards about 30 being old and 40 being over the hill.
Like. Something is going on with all of this. Why are people who have lost nothing real to time yet (like partners or major ability, etc.) feeling tragic over just, being adults who are not young? It’s super unnatural. It speaks to me of a lack of something bigger and more overarching. I think a lot of it is finding a place to put fear. So I think it’s already being terrified, already feeling like things are bad all the time, and then suddenly you have a number you can point to as proof. It’s not me! It’s because I’m in my 30s now. My 40s now. You’ll understand how bad it is when you’re in your 50s. Just wait until your 60s! How many of us have grown up hearing this? I certainly did! Super infuriating as a young disabled person, btw, “you don’t know what pain is yet! wait until you’re my age!” Insert epic AllHat eyeroll, age 14 edition. The cautions from older women of “just wait, it gets so much worse” were everywhere for me and I’m sure for many of us!
You know what I, as young whippersnapper with some very unusual circumstances thought when I’d be condescended to in this way? “I bet you were a total fucking bummer at 16, too.” I would even look at the 16 year old bummers around me and be like, “yep, there it is young, that’s the prototype”. So many morose people repaint their youth as a golden age when it wasn’t. My now gone uncle said that age simply makes people more of what they are, in terms of personality. It’s like a megaphone. One of the major overarching beliefs of my life is that you should never take advice or information from someone whose situation or outlook you do not want. I don’t take money advice from people in loads of debt and I don’t take life advice from people who are super miserable. I just straight up don’t believe it, because there are so many people who are not that way. I’m lucky in the disability community because I’m surrounded by both extremes. Not all disabled people are like, living their best lives despite it all, lol. Some are! And those are the ones I gravitate towards. And some have stopped being people and become patients and I’m not into that. Sorry, but I just can’t! I think it’s ok to adopt that attitude internally to protect yourself from things that are just, not going to serve you. I’m always kind in person and I try to cultivate compassion for them, but I’m not going to take their word as scripture.
I have no wrap up other than that I want and hope to continue to adapt well to life. And I think there’s so much to look forward to! And things to be wrong about! Haha And that thinking about ageism in the scope of all this is maybe warranted. Oh and mostly the Kimmy Schmidt quote which I most strongly associate with, “Age doesn’t matter. You can die at any time!”