Why you are never old enough to be too old

I am so old. I've been working at the same job for eighteen years. What else can I do?  I am definitely too old.

This was my constant inner monologue. 

When I was twenty-two.

I was an actor, living in the epicenter of our youth-obsessed culture: Los Angeles. Other people might have defined me as "successful" but success was a mirage that inevitably dissolved every time it seemed like I could grasp it. I signed autographs while out at restaurants or late for my root canal. But I got to a point where the joy was drained out of me. I was barely old enough to order a cocktail, but I felt ancient and hollow.

I assumed that my existence would always revolve around movies. Since I was four, my life had been wardrobe calls, accent coaching, and craft services - acting became my identity. It was the only thing I knew how to do. 

It was who I was.

At the age of twenty-two, I realized that who I was - was mostly miserable. I was struggling with the rejection, the focus on physical appearance, the constant competition, and loss of privacy. I felt trapped in a world that I was supposed to love.

But I was too old to do anything else. It was too late for me.

It finally occurred to me that every time I said, "I'm old," it meant: I'm scared.

I was terrified to make a change and overwhelmed by all the things I thought I should have figured out already. I was exhausted by Hollywood. Used up. Washed up. Deeply frightened of my future.

I didn't know that I was just getting started. 

I had to leave L.A. and retire from acting learn that we are all allowed - even at the age of twenty-two - to write the script for our own lives. We get to set our own priorities. It was painful to face the fear that my only worth came from my resume. There is nothing inherently wrong with the acting profession, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with being a cardiologist or a professional snowboarder. It's just that none of those things was the authentic path for me. We all have the right to change our mind about who we want to be.

I am now 37 years old. I really like being 37 years old. 

I can see the world in a larger context now. It's not all about me and my problems. I have more grounding in who I am and what I want to contribute to the world. I no longer feel the need to impress the right people and wear fancy shoes I can't walk in. I don't need to adhere to someone else's definition of success. That's the reward I got for surviving my twenties.

Of course, there will be times when we all get lost in moments of panic and insecurity. We might obsess about our past heartbreaks, our uncertain future and our hair that won't behave itself for even one damn minute. But we don't have to live in that place of painful mental anguish. We can just wander through every once in a while, visiting that dark, sketchy neighborhood, and then we can quickly remember the route home. We can choose to live in a place that is a little kinder and more compassionate.

I'm married to my best friend, a man who has known me for more than half my life. He knows to open the car window on curvy roads because I get motion sickness, and he can talk me down from a nightmare at 3 am without actually waking me up. He knows I love alliteration and hate raisins. We get all these beautiful moments for one reason - time. We've had time together that creates this bond and understanding. 

Time brings experience. Wisdom. Clarity. Whether we are twenty-two or thirty-seven or eighty-six, we get to wake up every morning and decided how we want to engage with life. We are never too old, or too young, to be who we were meant to be. We just tend to forget that we’re that powerful. 

Instead of picking on ourselves and avoiding every mirror, maybe we feel gratitude for the body that has hugged crying friends. The crow’s feet that resulted from late night giggle fits. The grey hair that was earned, while desperately waiting to hear the car pull into the driveway safely. The mature mind that realized that the high school boyfriend with the fondness for Goldschläger wasn't actually our soulmate. The years that have offered the chance to understand what the world needs and how we can use our inherent talents to shine a light. 

Regardless of our age, let's not be ungrateful for our lives. Let's not be paralyzed by all the things we haven't done, and let's look at what we can do today. Let's not feel old or desperately attempt to be young.

Let's wake up and simply embrace who we are – because that is truly courageous.

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Never enough: growing up airbrushed

bags I recently found this headshot from when I was 16 years old.

The blue pen marks indicate the parts of me that should be airbrushed.

That's the world I grew up in.

Even at 16, I had to be fixed, airbrushed and prettied up. I was never quite good enough as I was.

Now, when I look back at that time, I see a girl who had glowing skin and the ability to exist solely on Doritos while still having a thigh gap.

At 35, that thigh gap is long gone, but you know what I do have now?

  • gray hair (because I'm lucky to get older and wiser and experience life)
  • crow's feet (because I'm lucky to be able to laugh a lot)
  • a little puffy roll where my abs should be (because I was lucky to go to Italy last month and eat gelato every day)

I'm done listening to a world that tells me that I should dye my hair and wear concealer and lose three pounds because that's the weight that Jennifer Aniston prefers to be.

The Blue Pen People have made us all insecure about those things, but for some reason we've accepted that. And now, ridiculously, we've picked up that blue pen and are scribbling all over ourselves and others, highlighting whatever physical attributes we deem to be "wrong."

There is so much negativity already in the world, why are we contributing by hating ourselves?

So, women (and men) of the world -- what would happen if we came together and collectively decided that we just don't care about the thigh gap? Or laugh lines? Or inadequate lashes?

What if we stopped judging other women, and ourselves, by silly criteria that have nothing to do with health or happiness? What if we just ended it? What if we decided to focus that energy on important, productive things that actually mattered? Let's stop cursing the darkness under our eyes, and let's light a candle.

It's easy to think that we have all the time in the world and that sometime tomorrow or next year we will learn to be kind and love our hips.

But life is precious -- and we just don't have time for this blue pen bullshit.

Enough is enough.

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I will be turning 35 years old next month and I kind of feel like a failure. You see, I really thought I'd have a pet monkey by now.

Other than that, I feel pretty good about 35.

Since I started contributing to a retirement fund when I was 4 years old, I don't tend to put much stock in traditional timelines. Not much in my life has gone the normal way. I never wanted the things the other girls wanted. I would stare blankly when they said they wanted to have a million babies with some boy, and I would just think - some real estate would be nice. You know, somewhere for my pet monkey to play. 

I didn't even think I'd ever get married. But at some point, I told my boyfriend I'd like to have a little party in Italy where we got dressed up and all our favorite people were there and we stood in front of them and promised to love each other forever and then it was legally binding.

He took that as "wedding" and I went along because I love him and got a pretty ring out of the deal.

Many of my friends live very by-the-book lives and I wonder what that would be like. Sometimes I have a twinge of jealousy because it looks so comforting and socially acceptable.

For example, my job title is "writer" which makes me enormously happy, but it also carries the same seriousness as a small child who decides to call herself "unicorn." There are very few credentials required. Identifying yourself as anything artistic tends to be followed by a head-tilt and requests to prove and justify yourself.

Many of my friends have jobs like Program Administrator of Something Awesome or the Director of All Things Important. My business cards come from VistaPrint, where a friend recently ordered some that looked equally official...for her toddler to give out at play-dates.

It can be hard when everyone else seems to be doing things on some culturally pre-approved time frame. When the engagement party is followed by the wedding and then the baby shower. When the graduation is followed by the job and then by the promotion to the corner office. But some of us do things in a different order. Backwards or sideways or not at all. And that is okay, too. I don't think that anyone on their deathbed has ever said, "I'm just so glad I did everything in a timely fashion."

There are few things I can say with total certainty after my almost-35 years of existence, but this is one of them: as long as you're still breathing, you have the power to change your mind, reinvent yourself and follow that bliss. It's never too late.

A complaint about being "too old" for something deserves to be followed by a smack upside the head. I've had several friends die.

At age 19.

At 21.

At 32.

At ages that should be about beginnings, not endings. The idea of bitching about getting older - a luxury that my friends never had - seems obscenely ungrateful. So, I'll skip the jokes about celebrating my 29th birthday "again" because I'm proud of my age. I don't want to live my life by the numbers.

So, come on, 35, let's see what you've got. (I really hope it's a pet monkey.)

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