Thursday, June 8, 2017

Body Issue (Part 5): Age Is Just A Number?

As we were walking to our car, in the parking lot of home depot, my friend turned to me and said "I'm nearly 40 now,... blah blah blah." Yeah. I have no idea what she said after she said she was nearly 40. All I felt was that familiar sudden panic that I'm getting to be too old and doors are going to start slamming shut on me.

I have lots of friends that are in their 40s and still rocking this world on its head, no problem. This friend was different, because we came through the singles ward together and because I always think we are the same age, even though she's actually two years older.

Floods of all the things I'm afraid age will keep me from accomplishing gushed down upon me.
'You'll be old, no one will date you, you'll be stuck alone. Too old to go back to school, too old to become a sports psychologist. You've taken too long, too many detours.' My brain screamed at me.

It's only been about 5 years I've successfully fought off the Ageist demons in my brain, but even yesterday they still managed to worm past my defenses. All I have to do is remember my conversation with one of the head guys at US sports psychology.
"Its not important how old you are when you finish. Of course you can be a sports psychologist. If that is really what you want to do, you will find a way to do it, no matter how long it takes."

Breathe deep. Sigh. Breathe deep again. 35. My life is no where near over. I'm doing this, I can do it. I've got it.

It's all part of that struggle against cultural lenses. Agism runs deep in our society, but every day I see people who defy that. Professional athletes that learn to train differently for the changes in their body, and keep competing well into their 40s, and maybe beyond. Even in women's gymnastics. And that should tell us something there.

I see it in non pro athletes. 90 year olds running marathons. I mostly see it in sports, because I mostly see sports, as my inspiration, my fuel. But it's all around. The age barriers being broken.

Every time this subject comes up I think of my grandma, who played softball into her 40s, and threw toilet paper rolls in her 60s that would put anyone to shame. As I understand  it, she was a great softball player, and didn't need to stop playing, but my grandpa told her she was too old, so she did. I wish he hadn't.

Growing up, I always felt this pressure, and I don't know where the idea came from exactly, because I don't remember my parents letting age limit them, but it was there. This feeling that I had until age 25 to accomplish everything and then it would be too late.

When I turned 25 a year after getting home from my mission, freshly graduated from college unmarried and with no real idea what I wanted to do, I felt like a huge failure.

It was even worse when I turned 30, until I talked to that sports psychologist. Strange though, because I was a far better figure skater, and athlete in my late 20s than in my teens.  And I soon discovered the  30s are the best thing ever. I finally was figuring out who I was. I got smarter about my body. I knew what I loved and didn't love to do work wise. There is no reason for this nonsense to be in my head about age.

"I'm too old, I can't " is I phrase I would love to have stricken  from the English language. I have seen many good examples in my life, parents with children that find ways to explore their dreams while helping their kids explore dreams at the same time. A mom that runs marathons letting her girls run on the treadmill, and run 5 ks  together. A family taking figure skating lessons- together. A family that does plays together, and a dad that does a community play on his own, then helps get all his daughters  through their plays weeks later. My favorite- a 70 year old learning to figure skate, quite stunningly from a Slovakian former Olympian coach. She didn't do jumps, she wore a helmet and knee pads, and she could do everything else.

One of my biggest pet peeves (and it's a dangerous one to have as a single, childless woman), is when parents, and non parents put giving kids all the experiences in life above everyone and anyone else. Yes, it's important to give kids learning opportunities, yes we need to take care of and prioritize them. But when we do so with the attitude that no one, including the parent themselves matter then, I believe we are actually hurting our kids and our society.

Kids need to see that life doesn't end when you hit 25 or 30. Kids need to know that they have their whole lives to do and become who they are going to be. There is no time limit on that.  And yes, there are things they may not ever accomplish that they have dreamed to do.

But, I truly believe this is what matters...
"The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in Life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. To spread these principles is to build up a strong and more valiant and, above all, more scrupulous and more generous humanity."  -Pierre Dr Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic games.

Even in your 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 100s, the important thing in life is to take part.  We don't stop needing heroes of inspiration when we turn 30. We don't stop needing heroes when we become heroes.  We humans all kind of need eachother. We fuel eachother with meaning for life, things to strive for and do. No matter our age, and our limitations we can push ourselves to keep growing, mentally, physically and emotionally. We can keep succeding and accomplishing, overcoming,  and dreaming.  I think if your kids can see you do that, they will have deeper hopes and greater reach in humanity, to change the world. Because they will see you, old foggy, still changing the world. Still mattering. Still discovering and growing. Still inspired.

Stepping off my soap box now. That talk is still as much for me as for anyone. Part of me refuses to believe im not too old already for too much. But I try to not give that piece too much input.  Our culture does that enough. Movies, sports, art. Everything seems to have an age limit, especially if you are a woman. I can't change societies mind about that, until I change my own. So that is where is start.

And so far, it's made a big difference. I just keep getting better, I just keep showing myself I can. And I keep finding inspiration, because as yesterday's non body issue post pointed out... in real life and in fiction, representation matters.

I don't normally do this, but I'm gonna end with two book recommendations for any one struggling with age issues. 1) "Find A Way"  by Diana Nyad.  2) "Age Is Just A Number"  by Dara  Torrres.

Guys. We are going to live to be like 140. So 40 is still pretty young, and 35 is practically a baby. Let's live like that's true, and your whole life and future is in front of you.  If you have health issues to work through and aches and pains, and real limitations, that is a factor, but it's not the end.

I will talk about this more on my Athlete body issue post, but for now, just know patience and persistence, and knowing you have time to get better are important keys. You have time, if you  just start.

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