Let me start this post with Alhamdullilah, I feel very blessed that I was granted another year on this earth. As of April this year, I’m 25 and although I feel healthy and joyful, I still have to juggle a lot of thoughts to do with the significance and pressures that we attach to this particular age, especially as women. In this post, I want to get candid and talk about not only the joy of turning 25 but also the fear of getting older and how ageism forces women to hide their real age.
Significance of Age 25:
For a long time, the only age I looked forward to the most was 25 simply because I believed that was ‘the golden age’ for most women. A time in your life when your strength, beauty and to be frank, fertility is at its peak. Through movies, songs, and literature, 25 is characterized as an age where a woman still maintains her beauty and youthfulness whilst simultaneously evoking an air of maturing and elegance. It’s no wonder that so many aging women look back on their 20s with so much fondness and wish they had the opportunity to go back to their 25-year-old selves even for a brief moment – to relieve the last stretch of their youth and carefree lives.
Fear of Getting Older:
The past few months leading up to my 25th birthday, I couldn’t shake off this feeling that I’m getting old. I felt a little bit of anxiousness bubbling up inside and I think the main reason for that is I realized just how fast time passed between 20-25. In your early 20s, you feel young, society gives you the benefit of doubt due to your age and lack of life experience but all that slowly shifts at the mid-way point. You realize that from this point onwards, time becomes even more precious, especially as a woman. There’s this immense pressure that you put on yourself and society subliminally puts on you to get marriage, family, and career in order in such a small window of time (3-5 years) before your 30s come knocking.
John Mayer put it best in one of his songs, saying “So scared of getting older, I’m only good at being young. So I play the numbers game to find a way to say that life has just begun.” I deeply resonate with this and in order to avoid focusing on the perils of departing from a comfortable stage of my life, I’m having to remind myself that in the grand scheme of life, 25 is still fairly young. That being said, it most definitely is a turning point where you start to accept that you’re a proper adult now who can’t afford to waste time or be nonchalant about the direction of your life.
When I was exiting my teenage years, I wrote a letter to my 25-year-old self with a list of goals I needed to accomplish by this age because I figured I needed to have almost every aspect of my life in order by now. I had very high expectations for myself – To finish undergrad by a certain age, get married, have my first child and finish my postgrad endeavors all by 25. Although I’ve accomplished some goals and I’m currently in the midst of ticking off others, I’ve also come to realize that certain goals cannot be confined to a specific timeline. Especially those involving personal growth as that is a continuous process that will probably last a lifetime as well as goals that can only come into fruition with god’s timing. Reading that letter from my past about what I wanted for my future put things into perspective for me. I realised that I really need to think about age and the process of getting older with a more healthy mindset instead of seeing it as just a goal-oriented occasion.
Ageism and Why Women Hide their Age:
To go back to my previous point, for me to think that 25 is my peak is to conflate it with the notion that once you’ve hit your peak, it’s all downhill from there. As if to suggest that a woman has no value beyond a certain age and as though those qualities I spoke of earlier don’t apply to women over 25 which is absolutely absurd. However, I’ve noticed women feeling pressured to stay young is nothing new, to the point where we have a widely acceptable stance in society that at some point in life, a woman’s real age will be met with secrecy and lies.
Story time I remember during introductions at a roundtable discussion about diversity in the workplace, everyone was asked to introduce themselves by their name, age, cultural background and one unique quality about them. Whilst everyone was ready to comply and begin the introductions, one woman raised her hand and pointed out that it was insensitive to ask a woman to reveal her age and as such she would leave that out of her introductions. With no rebuttal, everyone just nodded and agreed it would be best to leave that out of the introductions as it would make some people (women to be specific) uncomfortable. Later I came to find out, that woman is only in her early 30s and it really made me think about the future and whether I will have to battle with ageism at some point too.
I wanted to share this and to start this conversation early because the sly comments that we hear about how age is a very sensitive topic for women that should be hidden will in some way, shape, or form influence the way we view ourselves once we’re no longer deemed youthful and desirable in the eyes of society. Anti-aging messages are prevalent and they seep into so many separate spheres of our modern-day society from dating apps and fitness to the make-up and skincare industry. This messaging can impact women as early as their late twenties and early thirties.
Embracing a New Age with Grace:
All I know is aging is a natural and inevitable process of life because to age is to have lived a life and hopefully one worth embracing and celebrating. I don’t want to ever feel ashamed of my age, irrespective of whether I’m 32, 47, 54, or 65. I also know that ‘youth’ is only one aspect of our growth; It’s worth taking advantage of the health and energy we have now but it’s equally important to have the self-awareness that eventually we’ll be pulled into other stages of our human life. I think it’s unhealthy to be fixated on youthfulness and allow ourselves to be overly consumed by the pressures to stay young for as long as possible. Some people go to extreme lengths to do this and would probably work themselves to death to get a chance to drink from the mystical fountain of youth.
All in all, the secret to a long-lasting, happy, and healthy life isn’t clinging onto the threads of our youth for as long as possible. The secret is to prioritize our physical and mental health as this will enhance the quality of our life as we naturally age. Finding power in that and showing up for yourself at every age and every stage of life is to me what it means to be an empowered woman. A woman who is not easily swayed by societal pressures or unrealistic expectations, who is aware of her intrinsic value as a human being, and who stands firm in her truth. These are small promises to myself that I want to honor and if with time the pressure starts to seep in, this post will serve as a positive reminder for me to think about the realities of aging with more logic and grace. One thing is for sure, having energy and passion, allowing our inner child to flourish, and not taking life so seriously will transcend any age and keep us young at heart for a lifetime.