My BFF’s daughter, who also happens to be my husband’s God-daughter, turned 13 this week. She is beautiful, smart, funny and trendy. At that age, I was none of those things. Ok, maybe I can claim smart – because I was kind of a geek. Around the age of 13 I was entering full force into the Awkward Years. Which to me of course seemed to last forever. The funny thing about the Awkward Phase is that it isn’t just on the outside – sure, I had that in spades, what with being skinny and lanky, nerdy, glasses, braces, the whole deal. But that phase of young womanhood brings with it a kind of awkwardness or uncertainty on the inside. I don’t know if our young friend feels that way, because certainly she and her equally pretty friends don’t act it, but I’m fairly certain that the fact that she has her whole life ahead of her as she enters adulthood feels at times a bit daunting.
Her mother and I get together once a week to scrap. (For those unfamiliar with this craft term, I mean that we create scrapbooks – a topic worthy of it’s own blog post at some point). Invariably while we scrap, we start down memory lane while looking through photos. We could be reliving moments of our children’s lives, our families, or even our own. This week, while we were talking about the physical changes we and our mothers have gone through over the years, and admiring the youthful energy of her daughter, I started thinking about the phases we move through in life as Real Women. More specifically, I thought about the contradictions that happen between our physical selves, and our mental and emotional selves.
In our teens, we have our youth yet we are trying hard to not be childish…we have seemingly endless energy. Some of us are yes, “awkward”, others not so much – but on the inside, we are completely consumed with how we should act and what others think of us. We then move into our 20’s and early 30’s…or, what I like to think of as the Wonder Years. We are still young, but are acquiring our maturity. We are beautiful, stylish, still have plenty of energy, and are ready to take on the world. What people think of us is still important, because now we are in the phase of having to prove ourselves. We have to prove we are mature enough to be taken seriously at work, we have to prove ourselves to be desirable to potential life mates, and prove to our parents that we are adults. We are trying really hard to feel the confidence on the inside that we are showing on the outside.
Next is the Phase I am in now…the 40’s to 50’s. This is when we start to lament the loss of our youth. We see wrinkles, grey hair and age spots develop, gravity is pulling all of our parts the wrong direction, and our energy levels aren’t quite what they used to be. Yet, ironically, on the inside, we are on an upswing. Sure, we may be trying to balance too much at once at this Phase of our lives, but the uncertainty of who we are is gone. We are confident in our own beliefs in what we feel is important, in who we’ve become, and what we will and won’t put up with in work and relationships. Isn’t it funny that while we are sad to see some of the changes happening physically, we are for the most part happy and at peace with what’s happening on the inside. It took a few decades, but we finally know who we are.
I find that I’m using an old adage more and more: Youth is wasted on the young. I didn’t understand it when I was kid, but it makes sense now. If we could feel the way we do in our older years, be as knowledgeable as we are now about life and ourselves, but have the outer shell of youth, wouldn’t that be remarkable?
I had the pleasure tonight of talking with a dear friend of ours. This woman is sharp, funny, entertaining, has a peaceful, confident and realistic outlook on life – and she just turned 90 years old. She is a treasure. Her eyesight is beginning to fail, she uses a cane to walk, and she’s not getting out and about as much as she used to, but she had me laughing so hard during our conversation that I’m still smiling now. It is women like her who make me fear the next Phases a bit less.
Sometimes people will ask if you could go back to a certain age, would you? I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’d like to physically be 30 again. That really was a good Phase in many ways. But if it meant I had to give up the Inner Me now, I’d have to take a pass.
This weekend, we will celebrate with the 13-year old at her family party. I will admire her joy and exuberance and the fact that the “world is her oyster.” At the same time, I will take a deep breath for her, silently wishing her safe passage through her oncoming teen angst and all of the changes and Phases she will experience. Enjoy every moment, dear friend…but never fear, the best is yet to come.