Upon my 50th birthday, I will receive a gift from the western world. Placed upon my front porch will be lots of baggage, filled with our society’s negative attitude toward aging. On the morning of my birthday, however, I plan to leap over every suitcase and continue on my way. On May 25th, I shall not dread turning fifty because I believe there is value in getting older.
Anyone who holds youth as the ideal ought to consider what one would lose if one never aged. At 28, I had never experienced child birth. In gaining a year, I gained motherhood. At 37, I had never received a liberal arts education. For eight happy years, I understood the joy of learning; I even ran to some of my classes. At 39, I wrote my first poem. At 48, I began skinny dipping. At 49, I tried my first ethnic food in New York City. Now, just one month shy of my 50th, what sparks the greatest surprise in me, is the complete turn-about I have made in my opinion of Edith Piaf, a famous Parisian singer. At the university, I abhorred her songs. Now, it is to her voice that I dance in my kitchen. It is for her songs that I keep still and listen, humming as deeply as I can. With all the good I’ve gained, how could I possibly curse the aging-process? Why, I wonder, would anyone not want to experience life at various ages? Why would anyone want to see life forever at twenty or twenty-eight? Looking ahead can offer hope. Maybe when I’m sixty, I will at last speak French fluently! And seventy, if I make it there, will be amazing because up to now, I know this age only through observation. I am curious and I want what life wants to give me.
I believe that our western society has failed to teach us the value of aging and has tried to make the aging process appear overly dangerous and ridiculously bad – it’s the biggest, baddest wolf of the deep dark forest. And oh the power of the birthday … that single day! to bring the coffin on. The problem, however, is not that we are getting older; the problem is our fears about it. I will need glasses, now, to renew my driver’s licence, but big deal! … there are five-year olds who need glasses! Bad eyes are not only for the old! And sadly, even kids get cancer. The fear of aging holds no greater threat than any other of life’s fears. Kids fear the first day of kindergarten and university graduates fear unemployment. Fear splashes in and out like ocean waves upon all of us.
Birthdays are not about fear, but about life. I believe that candles should be prized because the more one has of them, the more a room will light up. This is what I have observed over the years with my own candles and that’s why it is now what I believe.
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