Sure, we’re all older—older than we used to be, older than even a moment ago. But I am categorically older. I’m firmly middle-aged now. There was no one moment when this dawned on me. It was many small realizations over time.
The most surprising thing about growing older is that it doesn’t really feel like anything. It’s not nearly as dramatic as moving from child to adult. Your body and your attitudes change in subtle, gradual ways.
When I was a young adult, I never thought about my own aging. I knew it would happen in some abstract way. But I assumed it would feel dramatically different. And that’s the biggest surprise.
I tend to notice my aging reflected in the aging of others. With friends and family, especially those older than me who I don’t see often, I figure that since they’re getting older that I must be getting older, too. Only then do I think to look for, and find, my accumulated aging in the mirror.
I also notice some decline in my physical abilities. My eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be, nor is my digestion. I have similar strength and stamina as my twenties, but only because I care much more about those things now and work to maintain what I have.
There are advantages to aging. I feel more emotionally secure. The thirst for excitement has been replaced by an appreciation of calm. I feel like I have less to prove to others and myself. It’s a slower pace that might have bored me then but now provides endless opportunity for wonder.
My sense of time is different. I was 13 in 1983. I got a greatest hits Beatles cassette for Christmas that was mostly their music before 1965. Then, those 20-year-old recordings seemed of the same generic past of telegrams and WWII. Now, 20 years ago seems only a little less like yesterday than yesterday.