Getting older always seemed like a great idea until a bubbling quarter-life or midlife crisis rises to the surface.
Age seems to swing like a pendulum. You feel the passing of time and the pressure of the unknown as you seek to discover who you will be and what you will do. And the truth is, life is full of unknowns when you want to rent a car but the “Young Renter’s Fee” is breathing down the neck of your checking account.
Then you blink and you realize you are about to turn thirty. You ultimately never rented cars as much as you thought you would, and now everyone around you is complaining about their knees. The pressure of getting older permeates your mind creating a permanent sense of anxiety, especially for Black Millennials. Many of us are laser-focused on leaving a legacy, breaking generational curses, operating in purpose, and at first, we believed we had all the time in the world to accomplish these. This is why the signs of getting older seem to sting a bit more.
Distinguishing Our Demographic
Besides the signs born out of personal experience, Pew Research Center has also shifted the parameters around who is considered a millennial. In early 2018, they officially decided to draw the line at 1996 for reasons politically, economically, and socially meaningful. So now, in 2021, the oldest millennial will be 40 years old. This generation is getting older, but why does that matter to us?
In March of 2019, a team of sociologists from Ohio State University conducted a study that found a downward trend of health patterns physiologically, behaviorally, and psychologically. The trend began in Baby Boomers but continued to drop through Generation X and Y. Hui Zheng, the lead author of this study stated that the results show higher levels of disease and more death in this younger generation. In other words, it is clear that the overall health in my generation has taken a toll for various reasons and I can’t help but wonder if the way we see our futures has had an affect on that.
Reframing How We Think About Age & Time
One day I looked in the mirror and saw dark circles under my eyes, and truthfully, the stress of this past year has certainly not helped. Watching my parent’s appearance change right before my eyes, I am now forced to accept that time is moving forward for them as well. The reality of life’s dance between age and time is terrifying. But I believe that if we reframe how we think about these realities we can free ourselves from the anxiety and worry that plagues us.
So, let’s reframe. When you think about it, each gray, wrinkle, blemish, and spot that we receive is simply a sign that we are becoming more of who we are and who or what we choose to reflect. The longer we are here, the longer we are given the space to transform ourselves and those around us, the more our bodies begin to reflect such a journey. There is much wisdom in accepting the changes we slowly grow through. This is why we should see such a transformation as evidence of opportunities gained, not premonitions of time and opportunities lost. In fact, every mistake we make and opportunity we miss is a lesson learned for ourselves and those around us.
Contentment Comes With Age
This observation rings true for many middle-aged millennials as well, based on a recent survey performed by The Harris Poll on behalf of CNBC. It stated that most older millennials are content with the lives they are living. “The survey polled 1,000 U.S. adults ages 33 to 40 during March about a variety of topics — including their health, technology usage, families and future ambitions — and found that 78% of people said they were satisfied with their lives.” The experience gained through aging has taught Millennials the importance of having a balanced life.
How can a mindset committed to contentment help millennials reframe their thoughts about aging? Well, research has shown that as we age happiness starts to look different. Cassie Mogliner Holmes, professor at UCLA found in her story from 2010 that folks in their 20s have happiness more akin to the anticipation of what’s to come. As we get older, she posits that we begin to experience contentment, have more perspective, and begin to savor the little moments in life. Consider your parents and grandparents and how they see life now. Luckily, I have learned a bit from mine.
My grandma Hazel turned 85 this year, and the stories and lessons etched into her wrinkles and well-worn smile are beautifully apparent. As a dark-skinned Black woman that immigrated from Jamaica, she has a world of experiences, trials, and legacy, no matter how large or small, that she passes down to her children and grandchildren. Her just simply existing and fighting through a world that had not seen a woman of her color as valuable forever transformed my life in ways that a piece of advice or a snappy quote simply could not do. Watching her as I’ve gotten older has helped me value the contentment she has mastered. It is also her example that I hope to emulate even as I continue to age.
The truth is, aging and leaving behind the numbers we have become so fixed to in our young adulthood frees us from the fear of lost time and lost potential. It opens us up to a world of new growth and a different kind of happiness. To every Millennial anxious about aging, may we reframe your thinking and find contentment and joy in every season and stage of life.