When I wake up in the morning after a healthy dinner and seven hours of sleep, I look the same way I did after a two day bender in my twenties. I know that the lines around my mouth are from smiling and the ones around my eyes are from squinting on many a beach day. The state of my boobs is upsetting, but a result of nursing my kids. The roundness of my stomach, a tribute to many a good dinner. They are all signs of an instrument in use.
The shiny hair and sparkly eyes of youth are like a road with no line down the middle, or potholes. Really great for learning to ride a two wheeler, but hard to maintain. The drugstore is filled with products that are designed to hold off aging. Or, some semblance of it. If you really spend your days in search of youth, and all the beginnings that come with it, would you even recognize your actual youthful self? Would you recognize that real youth is about possibility and not perky boobs? Real youth is about not having met your children yet, or certain kinds of heartbreak. It’s about a future that holds more beginnings than endings.
Youth for me was also about insecurity and the anxiety of whether or not I was fit for adulthood. Each wrinkle and stretch mark has liberated me from that. I never stop trying to be a better version of myself, a better wife, mother, daughter and friend.
“Better” no longer means cute though, it means really listening when people talk. It means letting the enormity of life’s successes and failures sink in. It means celebrating with gusto and enthusiasm when there is cause and rolling up my sleeves and getting to work when I have to. It means not apologizing just so someone will absolve me of responsibility, but always apologizing when I think I am wrong. It means stepping back and looking at how far I have come, and then appreciating my chaotic and beautiful present.
Youth is about possibility, but maturity is about confidence and wisdom. Neither is really marked by age. We all feel youthful after we surprise ourselves; there is no more beautiful expression on the face of a yoga student than when she has come down from her first handstand in twenty years. I hear the wisdom in the voice of my ten year old when he talks about living with a special needs sibling. Neither youth or maturity are available commercially, they are the product of our experiences and our willingness to see them. Or even better, celebrate them.