Are you happy yet?

A new study recently came out asking Americans “If you could be one age for the rest of your life, what would it be?” It’s interesting to think about, like our own version of Vanilla Sky which depending on who you ask was a hit or a totally piece of shit. I always thought the idea of being able to preserve yourself for later to come back as fascinating and I personally loved that movie, and the soundtrack.

But if you could be one age for the rest of your life, what would you pick? Turns out, the answer was quite surprising – 25% of respondents said 36! Now unfortunately for me, if that’s true, then I wished I would have realized that sooner and I hope the rest of my life doesn’t go downhill from here! No, but seriously, this is interesting because our society tends to favor youth yet one in four polled picked almost middle age.

59% of respondents said they used to be obsessed with fighting the aging process and fighting mother nature was exhausting. Well isn’t that the truth? It is exhausting! I’m really feeling the pressure right now too as my wedding is less than a month before my 39th birthday. Pressure is on! Your wedding day is pretty much the adult equivalent of your Senior Prom. Well not Senior Prom because my date bailed on me last minute because he had to go to rehab for heroin. No, not kidding unfortunately. And who says the suburbs are a great place to raise kids? Ha! Guess what, not always the case. Shit happens in the burbs too.

But for most, Senior Prom starts with an abundance of pictures taken by a whole gang of parents. By the time you get to the dance your cheeks are already hurting from smiling for so long. That’s pretty much a wedding but instead of just before the wedding, you have a whole night of pictures and video capturing your every move and expression as a keepsake you’ll look back on for the rest of your life.

I hope you don’t go back and look at your prom pictures on a regular basis. That kinda makes me sad. It’s like those people that always talk about highschool that are now middle age or older. Like if that’s the last time you did anything worth reminiscing about then I think it’s time to re-evaluate your life choices and make some immediate changes.

But having a wedding is pressure enough to look good. Have you picked up a bridal magazine? Every ad or article in it that is not actual wedding ideas is how to look your best for your big day. I mean, there’s bridal diets which get freaking crazy. I am trying to be healthy but I am not one of those brides that’s going to starve myself to lose weight. I get hangry. You don’t want me to not eat even for a couple of hours. It’s not worth it to me, not my style.

Brides go tanning, get their teeth whitened or even get plastic surgery prior – isn’t there a whole reality TV show about that? My dentist gives free teeth whitening to brides & grooms. Free. And I live in Chicago – where not much comes free. While this great and I’ll be fully taking advantage of this – what does that tell you about the expectations on looks for the wedding day?

My dress designer, god bless her, I just had my latest dress fitting after a year on pause due to COVID. And I kept thinking, why do I have to come in early April? Last time I saw the dress in March 2020, it was in pretty good shape and I have another fitting late June before my final fitting. So what was the purpose of this one? Well, apparently it was to see if I had gained weight since the last one that additional adjustments would need to be made.

When she got me into the dress and zipped it up, she literally said “Oh wow! You are the same size as last time, great job!”. I mean, not gonna lie this was amazing to hear as just like most people I definitely gained COVID weight. Probably 10-15 pounds. But I’ve been busting my ass since October on my Peloton to undo COVID damage (without giving up alcohol and with being able to enjoy the holidays). So to hear I had officially undid my COVID-induced weight gain by the one person that would know better than anyone as she knows my entire body’s measurements felt like I had just won an Oscar.

Never since I’ve become a bride-to-be myself have I realized how much pressure brides are under to look their best on their wedding day. And that’s for every bride. Now add in that I’ll be getting married just two weeks before my 39th birthday and you add on a whole new level of pressure. So much so that I have amped up my skin care routine and I finally made a consultation appointment for botox.

Yep! In my first episode “To Botox or Not to Botox” I talked about the pressure to look young and how I was contemplating but still scared of Botox. Well my upcoming nuptials provided the final push to reach out and make an appointment. I will say, I’m thankful Christian isn’t thrilled about it – it’s one of the many reasons I love him, but whether it’s the bridal pressure or wanting to undo the aging that came along with living through a global pandemic – I made the appointment.

Getting back to the study. It was great to see that 71% of those polled shared they believe it’s become more common for Americans to accept and embrace their age. I agree with this and we also touched on this in my first episode as I believe this is partially in thanks to Gen Z as they make it mainstream to have grey hair and are more about accepting body types etc than my generation ever was.

But the reality is that there’s a difference between biological age and what they call chronological age – essentially the age you are and the age you feel. The changes we see the outside of our body like wrinkles are telling us what’s happening on the inside.

Our cells are starting to call it quits. So 63% of respondents said they wanted to shift their focus from looking younger to feeling younger. And scientists agree that if we reduce things that put pressure on our cells like sun-exposure and excess alcohol consumption, and add in supplements, we do have a chance to age healthier.

Top things people are doing as they get older included eating healthy, exercising daily, drinking water, skincare and taking care of themselves mentally and emotionally. I would say I’m definitely in this camp. While I am also trying to look younger or at least keep looking the same for longer, I know this is a losing battle and what’s most important is that I feel good longer.

I definitely eat so much healthier than when I was in my 20s. OMG – it’s night and day. Part of this is because my body literally fights back if I don’t but also I do find myself more enjoying healthy food than I did when I was younger. Don’t get me wrong, pizza and kraft mac and cheese still have a place in my heart but there’s a time and a place.

I am probably in some of the best shape of my life due to my exercise routine. When I was younger I never really worked out – I played sports. But in my 30’s I’ve really stepped up this game. Part of this is because of Christian. He’s super big into working out which is motivating because you just feel lazy if your partner is constantly working out and doing races and you’re always on the sidelines drinking mimosas cheering him on. But I’ve always found certain activities fun like Peloton classes or playing tennis. Or I’ve found ways to make typically boring exercise less boring like running. I’m really into listening to audio books or podcasts when I run. It gives me a sense of multitasking and it’s interesting to listen to vs the same playlist every time. Makes the time go by way faster too.

I do love a lot of water and I drink a ton of it. When I’m at work (in the office) I have a 1 Liter water bottle that I carry with me and probably drink 4-5 just at work. Now even WFH, I finish a water bottle during my morning workout and then am refilling all day. If I’ve learned anything as I’ve gotten older – water is the answer to most things. Dry skin? Drink Water. Headache? Drink Water. Sick? Drink Water. Hungover? Drink Water. Getting too drunk? Drink Water. I mean, it’s a cure for all pretty much. Isn’t your body made of like 70% water or something? So it makes sense.

And yes, making sure you take of your mental and emotional help, especially WFH and in a pandemic – super important. Sometimes hard, but really important. Probably why so many people have said the pandemic aged them.

So all of this is important, but what the study doesn’t cover is WHY? Why 36?

Well, according to Clare Mehta, an Associate Professor of psychology, the 30s and early 40s are more rewarding that a lot of people think. A while back she realized that there wasn’t a ton of research for this age group which she saw as a miss considering how many major life changes happen during this time. So her and her colleagues did a study and named this time period “Established Adulthood”. Sounds a lot better than midlife crisis! Ha! Should I change the name of my podcast? Eh, Established Adulthood doesn’t have the same ring to it.  

They expected their research to show the main challenge of this age group to be called “career and care crunch” or the collision of workplace demands and demands of caring for others. Trying to climb the ladder in your career while increasingly being expected to care for kids, tend to partner needs or even ageing parents.

But what they found was quite surprising. Of course, people dealing with the juggling of work and out-of work responsibilities felt overwhelmed. They never had enough time to get it all done. But they also felt profoundly satisfied and said the same things that stressed them out, brought them joy.  

That’s interesting right? I think we are programmed to assume joy comes by the lack of stress. But that’s not the case at all is it? Think about big life events – getting married? Stressful yet people say it is one of the best days of their lives. Having kids? Um, stressful but my hope is also joyful and worth it. Buying a home – that is one of the worst, most stressful processes but walking in with keys in hand after closing – joyous!

Our careers – no matter what job you have, there are stresses. But that doesn’t mean you can’t also find joy in it. It’s actually hard to think of something that truly brings joy that doesn’t have some stress associated with it as well. Even relationships – solid healthy relationships are anything but perfect which means stress is involved sometimes.

Healthy relationships sometimes have difficult conversations or arguments. They work together to solve problems and support each other through hard times. In fact, if a relationship has no conflict – guess what, it’s NOT healthy. Sometime is holding back or not being themselves or they’re sweeping their problems under the rug. No way can you feel real joy from your relationship if it’s based on keeping the peace and avoiding conflict.

What’s even more interesting is that their study showed people at 36 “felt like they were at their prime. After years of working to develop careers and relationships, people reported feelings as though they had finally arrived.”

This is interesting as in my “Generation of Renters” episode I talked about when I moved to Chicago, I had felt like I had arrived every time I saw the Sears tower walking my dog in my neighborhood. But looking back, I may have arrived at my location, but I had much further to go before I had truly arrived at my destination.

I would say I feel like I may be at my prime right now. I am more self-confident than ever. I no longer care so much what others think of me. I am more confident in my body now than I was in my 20s. I know myself better now. I’ve done the work on myself and taken the time to truly dive into what makes me who I am and what I care about. I have gone through my social and support circle and pulled some weeds. Not necessarily weeds that were doing me harm (in most cases) but weeds that just weren’t serving me in a positive way.

I used to always say “the more the merrier!” but now I have a smaller group I turn to and you know what? I no longer believe “the more the merrier!” I now truly enjoy smaller groups or 1:1 time with those I care about because when you are surrounded by a lot of people you usually stay surface level.

I look back in my 20s and my social calendar was packed. I was hanging out with this group of friends that always were inviting me to something. And there were a lot of us. Between parties, charity events, bar crawls, sporting events – whatever. There was always something going on. Which seemed to be great and that it was bringing me a lot of joy. But as I got older, I realized, what I do even know about these people. I consider them my friends, but do I even know their middle name? What drives them? What they value?

It didn’t make them bad people, and they weren’t. By all accounts they were perfectly nice, genuine people that wanted to have fun together and enjoyed each other’s company. But hanging out with 10+ people every time you go somewhere means your conversations are either focused on the common denominator or whomever is loudest in the room. You never go deeper. You never truly connect. And now? I don’t hang out with any of them. We’re still social media friends, and I do look time to time to see how they’re doing – because they are great people!

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve curated a group of people that I truly connect with on a deeper level. That is what brings me joy. Not every convo I have with friends is happy. Hell, sometimes we’re crying to each other and sometimes we’re arguing. But it’s genuine. And Authentic. And therefore it has greater value in my life than the number of people I can call on to hang out.

I still know people my age that talk about their 20+ friends. You know the people. It’s like every weekend they have 5 new names they’re spitting off that you’ve never heard of and talking about them like they’re best friends. Or the person that never truly has time because they’re always so busy with their abundance parties and events. I’m not jealous of those people. I may have pretty much a handful of friends I can call up today to go get dinner, but I’m confident I will know those friends in the next ten years.  

To close out today, while it may feel like I’m in my prime, the issue I have with that term is that if your prime is 36, then what? It feels like a really pessimistic view of life. Like I hope you enjoyed your happiest year because that was it? I don’t think so. If our “prime” is defined as the time we felt the most self-confident, emotionally and mentally healthy and joyous, then my goal as I head into my 40s and beyond is to continue my “prime”. What if we spent the rest of our lives letting go of what doesn’t serve us and focusing on what brings us joy? If we do that, then maybe our prime never has to end.

Until next time!

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