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By Shane Gilreath
I’ve come to see aging and the passage of time as one of life’s periods of grief. That does not equate to a perpetual state of unhappiness, but a simple notion that one is in a perpetual state of changing; saying goodbye to periods of life, people, events, landmarks that make us, good and bad, who we are as individuals. There are times when that’s a hard pill to swallow. Recently, an unknown, but genteel lady in a Facebook reel – one interviewing random people on the street – said that, though we think of aging as beginning at forty, we’re really aging from the moment we’re born. For many of us, it should have been an ah-hah moment. Her words spoke a truth against what has become a shrinking, shriveling societal landmark – the dreaded turning forty. Even as we don’t always accept the reality, life is a perpetual state of maturing. I remember the first time I saw someone my own age – nameless, of course, but someone with whom I’d attended school – and his hair was graying at the temples. We weren’t yet thirty and I shriveled back in despair. We’ve all (I hope!) had similar reactions. While our bodies might alter and change, I’m not sure our minds ever do. Other than the knowledge years might bring, mentally, we’re all still walking down the hallowed halls of high schools. Thus, I’d suggest, if you actually are in high school and, to you, thirty looks a lot like Ramses II and the relics at the Egyptian Museum, listening to the adults who tell you not to wish your life away is something to heed. It goes by quickly and we always think we have time. We don’t. The famed American First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, said, “today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be again.” Take a minute and let that sink in. Once it has, know that today’s the day to make your dreams come alive (and some of us do better than others). In recent days, I saw an interview with a former Miss America, Katie Harman, who won her title just after the attacks on September 11th. As if being the patriotic Miss America of days of yore wasn’t enough, Harman spoke about the pressure to look the same as she did 23 years ago, going as far as to say she had a picture of herself in swimsuit on her refrigerator, as a means, one guesses, of self torture. I can imagine that pressure is more difficult for women, Miss Americas or not, but the newly crowned Miss America, Madison Marsh of Arkansas, a Lieutenant in the Air Force, aged only 22, recently said something similar. Madison’s words rang particularly true: she lost her mother to pancreatic cancer when her mother was only 41. For Marsh, making the most of her year as Miss America and every minute of her life count is paramount. As Marsh would admit, it should be for the rest of us, too.
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