A Blank Canvas is a Gift

I’m 43 years old. Depending on your personal position on the timeline of life, you may think, “That’s so old,” or “Gosh, you’re still so young.” Or perhaps both. Old enough to feel regret but young enough to have the time to do something about it.

And I’ve been wallowing pretty badly in self-pity, going through my midlife crisis. As my skin begins to wrinkle and my hair begins to gray, I stare longingly at pictures of 20- and 30-something year olds, knowing that I will never have the stunning look of youth again. Those days are gone.

There are five stages of grief — the mourning of anything that is lost: 1. Denial, 2. Anger, 3. Bargaining, 4. Depression, 5. Acceptance. And I hope to goodness that I’m on to Acceptance soon because I’m becoming very tired of this midlife crisis thing. It’s been very annoying and inconvenient.

But in the acceptance of passing youth, I think that I’m finding myself. In the knowledge that I am the age that I am and there is absolutely nothing that I can do about that, I’m finding that I actually just like being me. It’s been a rough and bumpy ride to this point, full of tears, longing and anger, but I think I’m near the end.

When you are young, you constantly remake yourself in society’s current image of youth. Whichever subculture you choose, you wear the uniform and adopt the mannerisms to fit into your chosen group.

But none of that is available to you when you are older because all of our cultural images revolve around youth. We no longer are able to remake ourselves, left only with a blank canvas and painful longing and misunderstanding.

But every blank canvas is a gift. A divorce, a move, any kind of forced significant change: you are left shattered but with great opportunity. And, after being punched in the gut by life, when you finally get your wind back and are able to stand again, you realize that before you lies a wonderful, beautiful blank canvas. What shall I paint this time?

I’ll still miss my youthful skin, but it is pleasant to realize that I don’t have any references or ideas to model myself after. I have only me. And it’s going to be a lot of fun.

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