Four very personal reasons why 35 is better than 25

OK, let's get this out of the way first--if you're 25 (or 24, or 26), I'm not knocking you, or your age, or the stage you're at in your life. I swear.

It's just that, at 35, I look back on my twenties with a mixture of fond nostalgia and pure unalloyed relief at not being there anymore. And I'm not the only one--I'd say that most of my 30- and 40-something friends, even those grappling with the seemingly inevitable stresses of adulthood (relationship breakdown, health issues, financial woes) wouldn't trade places with their 20-something selves.

But why? Every year that passes is a year closer to...well, death. Why wouldn't we all leap at the chance to recapture some of that youthful bloom?

Well, for some of my friends (and thank you to those who responded to my Facebook/Twitter query), their thirties is a time to settle down--time to enjoy the families they've built (or are in the process of building), the careers they've worked for, the relationships they've developed. It's a chance to see all the hard work of their twenties start to pay off.

That's great, awesome, fantastic, and I'm happy for all of them--but, well, that isn't exactly me at this point. I get it, but I'm not there. (In fact, at the moment I'm the polar opposite.)

But I'm still happier.

And here's why.
  1. Confidence. I may look older than I did at 25 (although, thanks to good genes, I don't quite look my age), but I've got a much better handle on how to look good. At least, I know how to style my hair, do my makeup, and put on clothes in a way that doesn't make me wither when I look in the mirror. More than that, though, I've become comfortable enough with my personality--especially my brainy, big-word-spouting, know-it-all side--that I now consider my nerdy side an asset, rather than a liability. (At least, I've had enough people tell me that smarts are sexy that I'm starting to believe them...)

    I also have the confidence to know what I stand for and to stand up for the values I've managed to develop. When I was 25, I was like a reed in the breeze--capable of being swayed every which way. And along those lines...

  2. Knowledge. At 35, I've realized some important truths that I didn't know when I was 25. I think a comprehensive list will have to wait for another post, but a couple of the most important ones have to do with valuing compassion and mercy over mindless "fairness," and recognizing that the accumulation of stuff isn't a path to happiness. Plus, I now know how to cook a decent meal from scratch without a recipe, how to maintain a healthy body without paying for a gym membership, and how to ask my friends for help with all the stuff I don't know how to do. Knowledge is a powerful thing, and it's a power I had much less of when I was 25.

  3. Compassion.This is a biggie. I've started acknowledging that I'm actually not in control of a whole lot, and that weakness and vulnerability are part of being human for all of us--and that the response to weakness and vulnerability, in myself and in others, needs to be compassion. Just that. Not to say that people don't piss me off on a regular basis, because they do. I piss myself off regularly. But when I remember to look beyond my irritation--and, in a couple of very specific cases, deep, deep anger--I can usually find a current of compassion. When I was 25, I just hadn't been kicked around enough, or experienced the compassion of others enough, to really be able to understand what being compassionate really meant.

  4. Honesty. This goes along with being confident, I think. I'm slowly, slowly, slowly starting to be honest--with myself, with others--about who I am, what I need, and what I am and am not willing to change. This is probably the hardest lesson I've had to learn, and I fall down on it regularly. Being a bred-in-the-bone people-pleaser makes it hard to be truly myself--but I've learned that honesty and subordination are, well, incompatible, and I sure as hell don't want to be a subordinate to anything anymore.
One of my classmates from Ryerson--many of whom celebrated their quarter-century birthdays last year--was thrilled to see from my Facebook comments that life gets better as you get into your thirties.

Mimi, it does get better. It doesn't get any easier, mind you--but it does get better. At least, it has for me.


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