Age: People say it is just a number. Merriam-Webster says it is the amount of time something has existed. I think it is an era.
Each age we become is a time we get to be that age for an entire year. Era is defined as: a long and distinct period of history with a particular feature or characteristic. Three-hundred-and-sixty-five days is a distinct period when we get to make our own history for that particular age.
This year one of my granddaughters turned 6. I turned 60. I distinctly remember being 6. I remember how I liked to spend my time and with whom. I remember the mortification of a public embarrassment and conversely how much I thrived on the approval of others. I remember favorite items of clothing and my mother sewing them for me, one was a big appliqued cat on a cotton shirt with matching shorts. Mostly, I remember being me.
I think much of who we truly are, we are at 5 years old. Six is an age that changes us. It can be the start of believing society knows better who we are than we do. It can be when we begin to look at conformity as a goal, of thinking if we become like others we will be better accepted. Our experiences might cause fear to determine our actions. If ridiculed, one learns ways to prevent feeling that way again, it can change the essence of you.
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Some ages get particular attention in a person’s life. Do you remember turning “Sweet 16”? The expectations of that age were monumental. For some, the most important thing was being old enough to drive. At 16, the phrase “being old enough to …” was used often. Sixteen was an age when new things could happen because now we were old enough to date, to wear make-up, to get a job. It was an age, our own era, when we made cognizant choices of who we wanted to be. Did we want to treat others kindly; to take responsibility for our decision; to learn how to function in society? If we were lucky, the fears which started when we were 6 left enough of our true selves intact to let us expose who we really were and improve our real self instead of disguising that person with characteristics we thought others would find more appealing.
Our personal eras change as we grow older, and we tend to not focus so much on each year as we do on each decade. We refer to ourselves by the decade our age is, “in my 30s.” In describing my own life, I can tell you that during my 50s, I started to remember the real me and re-introduced her to the world with a self-confidence I had lost through the years.
Upon turning 60, my main thought at this age is that time passes much too quickly and that some people leave us much too soon. I have so much I want to accomplish and I feel like I need to rush to get it all done. One thing that I know for certain needs to be done every minute is to say what needs to be said. Say it while you still have the chance. Tell someone what you admire about them, how their presence on earth has affected your life. Let them know how you value them.
If you haven’t rediscovered your 5-year-old self, try to remember what made you happy and in what ways you liked to give of yourself.
Whether you are 6, 16, or 60 offer yourself to the world. You are the only one who can.
Anne VandeMoortel is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.