My best friend and I are at a conference together and have been going out for early morning walks each day to help us keep on track with our fitness plans. My BFF turns fifty this year- I passed that milestone three years ago, and we’re both doing our best to be healthy and fit and to age well as we crest that ‘hill’ and head over the other side. There have been ups and downs- this time last year, my friend was battling breast cancer. I am so grateful to have her with me this summer, beautiful and cancer-free.
As we took our walk across the campus of the University of Kansas this morning, we passed several young coeds on their way to class. One young woman in particular seemed to really look at us as she approached us. I imagined her having a flash of intuition, wondering what she might look like when she got “old”, and I thought about what she saw; two middle-aged women, laughing and being silly. Women with wrinkles starting to become etched on our faces (one much more than the other). Women who are not old, but are no longer young. I wanted to stop and tell the young woman that what she saw on the surface was only part of the equation of what her future would hold.
What she didn’t see were our accomplishments, the careers that we have built through our passion, hard work, and dedication. She didn’t see our courage in the face of serious illness, of loss, of disappointment. She didn’t see our gentle hearts and bawdy senses of humor- nor our determination to better ourselves and grow. She didn’t see our strong bond of friendship, or the hopes and dreams that we have that will never dull with age.
I think of my own almost crippling insecurities of youth. What a difference the years have brought. Yes, the blush of youth has long-since left my cheeks and the gray hair has come to stay en mass. However, the trade-off has been quite worth it all; I feel comfortable in my skin finally, wrinkled though it may be. I know finally what I want in life and what I truly need to be happy and fulfilled. I know what I will put up with- and what I no longer will. I know to be grateful for everything that comes my way, no matter what. Everything that we experience Helps to shape us and make us who we are.
My wish for that young woman is that she enjoys every moment of her youth, that she learns and grows and loves and laughs. I hope that when she sees the gray begin to sprout and the wrinkles begin to add character to her face, that she will not let the outer shell define her. I hope and pray that she relishes the knowledge that can only be gained by living life- every single joyful, painful, messy, heartbreaking and heart-stopping moment of it. The outside is just a wrapper. It may crinkle a bit, look the worse for wear as the years pass…but the inside, the spirit, only glows brighter with every passing year…and that is true beauty.