When I hear younger writers talking about how they wasted their youth or are too old to do what they want, I find myself tsk, tsking—as old people do. Hah. But more so, it reminds me that we all feel this aging thing in the same way whether we’re 30 or almost 67. Wow, I’m this old? How did that happen?
People tell me not to call myself “old,” as if denying it will change the truth of it. (My mom is still well at 97, so I have it in perspective.) Maybe they believe that it’s a sign of depression or giving up to think of oneself as old. But, to me, it’s just a fact of which I’m reminded frequently because my colleagues at Third Person Press, my “tribe” from Viable Paradise, my writing group, and most of the people in the writing forums I habituate are considerably younger than I am. Even my husband is four months younger than me.
Being around younger writers so much has, as a family friend once said, “good advantages and bad advantages.” It’s enriching, but it can undermine one’s sense of self by comparison. To offset the “bad advantages,” I remind myself that being 20 had significant challenges. That many things were harder when I was in my 30s. I had debilitating migraines when I was a kid and young adult that I don’t have now. My memory wasn’t perfect when I was younger either. I had far more insecurities about myself. Aging brings limitations, but there can be a lot of freedom in being older.
Writing is a grand adventure that I started late. I’ve had some encouraging successes lately, which help my sense of being in the right place, doing the right thing, but a big part of my okayness is about having developed the habit of setting small, achievable goals and then working toward them. This means remembering the difference between:
I have to get into this market or I’m a failure as a writer and: I have to submit to this market because I’ll definitely never get into it if I don’t.
Submitting my best work is under my control; getting an acceptance isn’t.
Right now (I make no predictions of future feelings), I feel like I’m rocking my elder years. Partly this is because I’m coming out of a chronic pain thing and it feels like I’m winning that battle. But mostly it’s about not giving in to the undertow of doubts about what is possible. Writing and marketing my work gives me achieved goals and possibly unexpected successes to look forward to—a wonderful reminder at any age of the progressive, dynamic quality of life.
Maybe those who say I shouldn’t talk about being old are right. Maybe these feelings around aging are so universally ubiquitous as to be useless, meaningless. Maybe “feeling ageless” is something I should be striving for. Whether that’s a doable goal or not, remains to be seen.
Rock on, peeps.