September is my birthday month, and thankfully, I’m turning another year older. I am now firmly into my fourth decade–or as Farmguy corrected–fifth decade, because you count 0 to 10 as your first decade…..okay—whatever! The bottom line….I am forty-something and well into the journey of my life. And, with this understanding, I started considering the passing years and what “age” means to me.
As someone who’s interested in wine and recently completed the WSET Level III Award in Wines through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust this year, I started thinking about aging in wine and aging in life. I thought about the grapevine’s journey versus our own journeys. Young grapevines have vigor and brightness, but it’s the older vines that are the most sought after to make the best wines. This is partially because the vines take on the nuances of their environment: herbs, mushrooms, and flowers as well as the minerality of the soil; and, as vines age, they produce a delightful complexity and intensity in their fruit. These extra years are prized and celebrated, because in viticulture, time is allowed for character to express itself.
It’s understood that many vintages will pass before a vineyard will start to show its magic. From the vineyard to the cellar, respect for the aging process continues. A particular set of environmental conditions is cultivated to help the wines age: dark cellars, correct humidity, constant and perfect temperature, and no excessive light or continuous vibration. It’s not about holding on to the youthful characteristics of the wine, but developing and celebrating its aged ones. This, however, isn’t always society’s view on aging in people, especially with television and magazine ads promising eternal youth in lotions, creams, and various procedures.
Our culture is obsessed with being young; however, the ironic thing is that when we are young, we can’t wait to be….old enough. Old enough to drive, to have a first job, to date, to vote, to legally drink, to live on our own, and to get married and have a family. Then, finally, we are old enough, and that’s great! We’re old enough to have important commitments and responsibilities as well as make our own decisions, live with the consequences, and endeavor to create meaningful lives. Sometimes, though, in the midst of creating our lives, it would be nice to have a “pause” button. A button that we could just press for a while, to savor life.
Regretfully, there is no pause button, and the years go by faster and faster. One day, we wake-up and realize that we are, indeed, old enough. Yes, we have a few extra wrinkles from smiling or frowning too much—whatever the case may be—and, a few of those stubborn, wiry-gray hairs that insist on sticking up in the middle of our heads. We now notice that the teenager bagging groceries looks about 8-years-old and just called us “ma’am,” while asking if we need help getting our groceries to the car. We also appreciate getting carded: reacting as though we just won a prize, especially when said 8-year-old grocery bagger cards us for our bottle of Chardonnay. And, sometimes, we get little aches and pains from doing everyday chores like vacuuming, as if cleaning the house wasn’t a pain enough. Of course, one of my personal favorites is having to change my entire pajama ensemble in the middle of the night—right down to my unmentionables, because I just spontaneously combusted from a hot flash from hell. Yeah, good times!
The truth is this: every stage of life has its challenges and rewards, but it’s up to us to develop the right perspective. I like my age and where I am in life. I really don’t want to go back to my twenties or thirties. I enjoyed my time there, mostly, but it wasn’t perfect. Today, I like who I’ve become, and that only happened because I lived through and endured four decades—four decades, where I learned compassion for myself, to act and not react, to forgive, and to see the beauty in all things. Most of us are not born knowing all of this. We require many vintages and maybe a little cellaring for our character to fully express itself.
The best part about aging, in my opinion, is knowing. Knowing who we are and being fine with it—flaws and all; knowing our values: what we stand for and what we won’t fall for; knowing that it really doesn’t matter what others think of us and finally believing it; knowing how to let go of negativity and embrace joy; knowing how to quieten all of the noise in our minds and only hear our own voices; and finally, like wine, knowing that life gets more complex with age—but it also gets better.
It’s taken every day of my life to create who I am right now, and I’m happy with the person I’ve become. I wouldn’t give her up for fewer wrinkles, gray hairs, or moments of heartbreak. At my core, I’m still the same girl on the inside that I was in my teens, twenties, and thirties—just a wiser, stronger, and more joyful version. I believe that on this journey I’ve known people and situations that were meant to teach lessons and shape my perspective and character—in a way, like the grapevine that soaks up its environment and is affected by its surroundings.
Here’s the thing: Instead of dreading each passing year or seeing age as something negative, we should celebrate how we’ve evolved by finding meaning in our experiences, embracing joy, and uplifting others. Each of our lives is unique and places us in a special position to offer something, that perhaps, no one else can. Age shouldn’t be about a number…or wrinkles on our faces, it should be about celebrating the people we’ve become. The point of our lives IS age: to develop, to change, to become more complex—just like those lovely grapevines and the wine they produce. It’s not about trying to be what we once were, but becoming what we can be.