As I was enjoying a smoothie with one of my close friends after an exercise class, we observed the many women in the café with plastic surgery. She looked at me and said, “It is a privilege to age; I don’t know why most people have a hard time embracing it.” Her words struck me in a way I had not previously thought about the aging process. As a society, we have become consumed with age-defying creams, plastic surgery, cosmetic procedures, and any type of exercise that will defy gravity. My friend’s words came from a place of survival; a place in which she never thought she would live past 30 years old (she is now 37).
At the young age of 18 years old, my friend had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after a painfully long period of time in which her symptoms were not correctly identified. She thought that she would recover after the first round of chemotherapy treatments. However, she questioned her survival when the cancer returned. She could not even envision herself aging, entering into the next decades and chapters of life. Fortunately and to her surprise, she entered into remission as she chose to engage in an experimental treatment program. In many ways, her emotional life seemed to stand still, even though she continued to move forward with her education and become quite successful with her career. She was able to envision her future career goals, though not her personal goals in terms of finding a stable home or life partner, just in case her cancer returned. Now that she is approaching 40, she has finally been able to breathe a little bit easier, knowing that she is living in her future and she can continue to look ahead.
Through my friend’s eyes, the aging process has been a privilege, an invaluable gift that she did not think she would ever experience. She has slowly unpacked the boxes left in her apartment of seven years and recently completed decorating her apartment as she thinks her time in this world will be much longer than her younger self anticipated. We can all benefit from her story and perspective. Rather than worrying about aging and trying to prevent it as each new year commences and every birthday passes, we can welcome and embrace the natural progressive changes in our body.