Or do the challenges just change? By: Tess Wheeler
We live in such a youth-orientated world, we’re often made to feel past our sell-by dates as we hit middle-age and beyond. Popular culture is mainly aimed at people in their teens and twenties. The media, fashion, music, and leisure — by fifty-plus, we’re no longer the target audience. It’s easy to feel out of step, especially if we’re struggling to get to grips with new technology. Life certainly doesn’t feel easier when you can’t work out how to follow a church service on Zoom in lockdown, or download an app on your phone to pay for parking. (Both of which have happened to older relatives of mine recently.) But most of us care a lot less about pop culture, and perhaps technology, too; I’m happy for the youngsters to worry about fashion, bands, and the latest gadgets. The challenges certainly change. Perhaps we’re done with our formal education — school is out. We may have found a career we enjoy and we’re climbing the corporate ladder. Maybe we have a family. Or perhaps we’ve opted out of the rat race and gone self-sufficient. Whatever it may be, we’re negotiating our own chosen path through life. So, does life get easier as we age?I hate to tell you, but I don’t think it does. There is some good news, though. We get better at coping with what life throws at us. And the result is that life seems to get better and easier to navigate, so it amounts to almost the same thing. We get better at identifying what’s important
We know what matters to us, and what doesn’t. We learn what we like and what we don’t enjoy.
We stop doing many of the things we don’t care about just because we think we should. There’s great pleasure in not going to that party, where we’d have to stand around for hours with a drink in hand, making small-talk with people we’ve just met.
We know ourselves better
This self-knowledge allows us to become more secure in ourselves and who we are. We have found our feet. We stop pretending to be anything we’re not because we’re happier in our own skin.
We care less about what people think of us. We’ve realised that not everyone is going to like us and we’ve made our peace with that. And we come to understand that other people are barely thinking about us at all.
“You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.” David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest We become more emotionally resilient
This resilience comes because we have more experience to help us through situations. We don’t face so many things for the first time — we have a reservoir of knowledge in our brains to draw on.
The problems facing us don’t seem so huge or overwhelming when we’ve dealt with them successfully before.
We don’t expect to be happy all the time
This sounds obvious, but it’s a big one to truly accept. Being happy every day is unrealistic and unachievable. Believing we should be condemns us to a lifetime of disappointments.
Or to be more precise, we discover that we’re not going to be happy all day every day. We learn to find and treasure little oases of happiness in our lives; half an hour here, ten minutes there.
We do this by becoming happier with simpler things. A good book. A walk outside in the rain. A hot bath or a great meal.
We learn to deal with not being in control
We discover quite early in life that we can’t control events or other people. If we are sensible, we learn instead to control how much we let these things affect us.
If we can let other people’s anger or stupidity wash over us, it can save us from a lot of heartache and high blood pressure…
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr, The Serenity Prayer We find our tribe
This may be a partner or good friends. It may even be like-minded souls who just get who we are. My writing group is my tribe, because they are people outside of my daily life who share the same interests and goals.
Life itself doesn’t get easier, but we learn strategies to make living easier. Later old age brings new challenges. Some amazing individuals continue to be fit and full of vigour, like this nonagenarian ice-hockey player. But there’s no escaping the fact that, for most of us, health issues come to the fore. Fortunately, the strategies we’ve learned throughout our lives stay with us. They are part of our armoury and come to our aid when really we need them. If we are able to, it’s a good way to look at life; adversity shapes us and helps us grow enough to face fresh challenges. And a healthy dose of positivity goes a long way