Many of you will not be able to relate to what I am about to say. But, I have felt every year as it passed me by since I was 24 years old. See, I came home from the Navy at the ripe old age of 23 and right before I turned 24 I was diagnosed with terminal stage 4 cancer. I went through several years of chemotherapy and radiation. I lost years of my life just existing instead of truly living.
I moved to Atlanta at the age of 27 and spent almost 20 years there. It was in 2007 when that nasty cancer struck back and I lost my job, my home, my partner of 12 years, and even my self esteem, and sense of self all in one fell stroke. It has taken me years to come back from it all. But, this article isn't just about me.
My best friend's mother is 66 years old, she is frail, has a speech disorder and can barely get around. My friend has given up his freedom and livelihood to take care of his mother. My mother is a similar case however my mother is 68 years old and can barely walk do to a spinal cord injury. My mother can take a few small steps, but for the most part is confined to a wheel chair.
I once asked my mother before her accident how she felt, and what she said to me stuck with me for all these years. She told me that if she didn't have the aches and pains she would have felt like she was still in her 20's, but when she looks in the mirror there is a stranger staring back at her. Who is this person with the white hair and wrinkles that has her eyes. The simple truth is it is her, herself staring back but her mind cannot accept that reflection.
Yesterday, I walked to the store with my neighbor, and by the time I got back to my house my back was hurting and I felt extremely warn out. I even told my friend that I was feeling all 46 years that I have been alive, like I have never felt before. Age seems to creep up on us, our minds don't measure time in the same way that our exterior body does. We can feel as young as we want to in our mind and spirit, but age shows in the slight crinkles around the eyes, the laugh lines around the lips etc.
Time seems to speed up the older we get. We were once able to do so many things during a day. We would go to school, hangout with friends, do homework and party and do it all over again the next day. Today, I can barely get everything I want to get done finished in a single day. But tell me where does time go? How is it that we went from being twenty somethings to forty somethings? Why didn't we notice it happening. Why does the person staring back at me in the mirror not remind me of myself?
Time apparently waits for no one and everyone ages. How we do it is up to us. Some of us don't look our age, and then there are those around us that look older than they are. How does all of this reconcile as we age? I am not sure that I can comprehend that I am now middle aged and that youth has passed me by. I have waited on the sidelines for many years due to illness and here I go again.
I can tell you that health plays a major role in all of this. See my best friend's mother just a year and a half ago had no issues or problems. Today you wouldn't even recognize her. It seems that age can creep up on us really fast and leave us holding our breathe. In this I can also relate. When I left Atlanta that morning back in 2012 I was so sick with kidney disease, and had just had surgery to remove kidney stones. It truly was my intention to come home to die. Guess what I fooled everybody because I am still here, but over the past 3 years my health has declined noticeably and I can no longer do some of the things I used to do when I was younger.
It is these limitations that let me know that I have truly aged. No matter what my mind has told me I am every bit of 46 and there is no getting around that. Since 2013 I have spent around 20 times in the hospital, these are admission stays that I am talking about, ER visits are way more. Over these past couple of years I have had to have 2 more abdominal surgery, one vein repair from an aneurysm then had an extended stay in a rehab/skilled nursing facility. My health has declined and not gotten any better. Just like my mother and my best friends mother, both are experiencing complications due to age.
It is unfortunate but all of us age. We all get older and we all feel it differently. Some of us get aching joints, others get cancer or some other illness. But, despite it all life goes on.
My eyes have awakened to my own hypocrisy, when I was young I like younger people. I never dated anyone my age or older. Now that I am older I find that I am still attracted to younger guys, but I have become what I always hated the older guy that used to hit on me when I was in the club. Age does not necessarily bring wisdom, but it does bring experience and knowledge.
My tastes are changing just as I am aging. I find people closer to my own age attractive and I have realized my blunders. How much of my life have I missed because of preferences and screwed up priorities? I would have to say more than half of my life have I lost many opportunities and missed relationships. However, because of the very illnesses and operations that I have had, made me reevaluate my preferences and priorities. I find that people my own age can relate to the things that I find myself going through better than the younger generation.
The older I get the more issues come up. The more pills I have to take to keep myself alive and healthy. But, this is not just happening to me, it is happening to all of us. Some of you are way younger than I am. Some of you were born the same year I graduated high school and you have no concept of age, and what is about to happen to you. See, I have to tell you once again that as you age, time seems to go so much faster. When you blink a whole month flies by, and before you know it the year is ending and a new one beginning.
My advice to you is to revel in your youth, enjoy it while you can. Live in the moment and experience life to it's fullest. Handle every obstacle that life throws at you with grace and courage. Be confident in all your dealings, know what you want and go for it. Take charge of your future, you are the one that writes your fate.
And if you look in the mirror one morning and you don't recognize the person looking back at you. Take heart that you have aged gracefully and rose to every challenge. No matter what aches and pains you have, look back at all that you have accomplished and be happy with where you are at.
Take your medicines regularly and keep a positive attitude and it will help you conquer anything that comes your way. Take care of yourself, eat right and get plenty of sleep. I think you will find that your body and mind thanks you.
Aging isn't fun at all, but it is something that we all have to do. So make the best of it. Age gracefully and know when to let go.
As always my hopes and dreams are with you,