When I was in my early twenties, getting older was just about the scariest thing I could imagine. I had convinced myself that if I wasn’t a runaway success by age twenty-six, I would be deemed a failure and should go live in a cave and start eating prunes. Every birthday spelled doom and gloom because I was so sure that all meaningful life ended at age thirty. Well, time marches on and my perception of thirty is a lot different now. It turns out, getting older hasn’t been all that scary and as I’ve aged, I’ve gotten better, wiser, and a whole lot happier. Despite living in a culture that’s obsessed with staying young, I find myself thinking, “Hey, this isn’t so bad!”
People Take You Seriously
One of the hardest things about being young is that many people don’t take you seriously and one of the greatest things about getting older is that eventually, that stops. It’s not always fair, but to some older people, anyone under twenty-five is a spring-break miscreant who’s incapable of making mature decisions. Once you’re safely ensconced in your late twenties or thirties, you have a wealth of experiences and people start treating you like a woman in charge of her own destiny.
When I was in my early twenties, I felt like people were constantly trying to put one over on me, charging me more for things and hassling me in ways that they never would have hassled someone older. It’s common for people to assume that young women are naïve, but once you’re past that dewy phase, they give you the benefit of the doubt and don’t second-guess your abilities.
No Pressure to Be Trendy
I used to go clothes shopping and feel pressured into buying all the latest hot-this-minute trends. I begrudgingly wore platform flip-flops, miniskirts, purple mascara, and all sorts of unflattering monstrosities because, well, I thought I had to. One of the best things about getting older? No one expects you to look nineteen anymore and it’s pointless to try. Women don’t have to start wearing muumuus and orthopedic shoes as soon as we age out of the MTV demographic, but it becomes totally acceptable to buy what’s comfortable and makes you feel good, instead of what all the other kids are wearing. Sometimes that’s the latest bag or hottest hairstyle, but sometimes it’s just a nice plain sweater. Once you hit a certain age, it’s okay to opt out of trends you don’t like or that won’t flatter your body type. I remember the first time I walked into an Abercrombie & Fitch and realized “I’m too old for this store.” It felt great and I’ve happily not been back since.
Creeps Look the Other Way
As a younger woman, I felt constantly subjected to unwanted stares, catcalls, and comments from construction workers, homeless men, and other random weirdos. These days, I rarely get catcalled anymore and I love it. The taunts weren’t about attractiveness; the creeps were just exploiting my defenselessness. Once you hit a certain age, you lose that. Now, instead of projecting an image of youthful vulnerability, my attitude says “Save it, loser. I’m over this.”
Friendships Get Better
I like to think of my friendships as fine handbags—once the leather breaks in and burnishes, they are more beautiful and interesting than anything brand new. My best friends and I have so much more fun now that we’re older, mainly because there’s so much more going on in our lives. Now that we’re all approaching thirty, we have kids, husbands, mortgages, jobs, and years of great memories to talk and laugh about. One of my friends lives on a farm in the Sierras and when I go to visit, we spend the whole day feeding chickens and laughing at the pygmy goats. We have a better time doing farm chores than we ever did going to bars.
You’ve Figured Out Who You Are
My best friend Katie has a theory about women and getting older. She believes all women change at twenty-five. No matter what happened before then, that’s when a woman knows who she is and what she stands for, and she starts becoming the woman she wants to be. I’d always thought I had it all figured out, but sure enough, at around twenty-five, I began to reevaluate my life and saw other girls my age going through the exact same process. It took a few years, but eventually I went back to school, made a huge career switch, and moved across the country. Do I regret the aimless wanderings of my early twenties? Absolutely not. But I have learned a lot more about myself since then and now I feel like I’m finally living the life I want.
Sometimes, one of the hardest things about getting older is that there are fewer “firsts.” You’ve had your first kiss, your first breakup, your first job, your first job ending, and the newness of adulthood has worn off. What you’re left with, however, is an abundance of knowledge about yourself and about life, resulting in the ability to make infinitely better decisions. Once you’ve had one crummy job, you can recognize them a mile away, and you won’t mistakenly take one again. Once you’ve had a crummy boyfriend, you know what traits can ruin a relationship.
My twenties are almost over now and every so often I do get nostalgic for my carefree and idealistic younger self. Then I snap out of it and realize that I like myself a lot better at twenty-nine. Being twenty-two wasn’t really that much fun after all and I’m glad it’s over. One of my favorite Bob Dylan songs puts it best: “I was so much older then … I’m younger than that now.”