I sit here writing this while I get my hair colored for the first time in almost two and a half years. After all, I am turning 39 this week, and that is what 39 year old women are supposed to do, right?
Back in my former life, I colored my hair regularly. It was what professional women did to maintain their image. But, because I was saving up money I went the Nice n Easy route – $10 a coloring rather than $100+ at a salon.
Since leaving the US when I was 36, I stopped coloring my hair. For no other reason than I was too lazy to get it done, or color it myself, or didn’t want to waste the money. I tried the whole “I’m growing old gracefully” thing. I realized, though, that perhaps I am not growing old as gracefully as a I thought.
The gray hairs that used to only peak around my forehead, have spread farther and farther and deeper and deeper. It is not the only change I am noticing – despite our relative freedom and my happiness in every day life, my body is still getting older. It is one thing I cannot control.
It made me think, though, about turning 39, and what I have learned from my years on this earth, living this lifestyle. Of course, these are all absolute statements when in reality my life is full of relativity, but I am giving it a go anyway. Here are the things I have learned from getting older.
Okay, perhaps I am not entirely okay with pushing 40, but as my mother in law says, age is just a number. Although I just dyed my hair, I am taking pretty good care of myself. In addition to yoga and all of my massages, I recently starting getting pedicures again, getting my eyebrows waxed, and am even getting facials.
For a lot of people this might come across as an attempt to look younger. For me, though, this is more to do with me attempting to embrace my feminine side than my issues with aging. And, this can be done at such a good value in Bali – waxing for $4? A ninety minute facial for $25? Yes please.
The facials are also for my acne. Whoever told me when I was a teenager that pimples were a teen problem should be shot! I cannot believe that I am 39, covering my grays, and using wrinkle creams, while simultaneously trying to beat my pimples into submission.
2. I Have Few Regrets
Although I may still be struggling with my age from the standpoint of those pesky gray hairs, I think one of the primary reasons why I am okay with my age is because of what I have accomplished before turning 40 – I am softly retired, I am happily married, I can support myself financially, and I can do some pretty cool arm balances in my yoga practice. I can provide advice to younger women, even when they don’t want it, which is my prerogative because I am older. I can reach out to people on the far corners of the globe for advice as well, with friends spanning 6 continents.
What all of this comes down to is that I really have few regrets with how my life has turned out. I had a great legal career for almost 10 years, saved money, spent wisely (most of the time), and figured out how to spend money on experiences rather than stuff. I am a writer and yoga teacher living in Bali. It can’t all be that bad.
I am not afraid, not in the traditional sense. I know people who are afraid of everything, from flying to terrorism to crossing the road in their neighborhood. People who are afraid of losing their job, their home, their comfortable life. People who are almost paralyzed by fear.
I am not one of those people. I do not have a fear of flying, and I am honestly not concerned about terrorism. Many people questioned our decision to travel, to move overseas. People asked “is it safe” or “what about terrorism?” It is not something I concern myself with. When it is my time, it is my time, and living a life in fear will not change that.
I find my only fears are the more rational ones – like what happens if I fall out of an inversion in my yoga practice and hurt myself, what happens if I get into a motorbike accident. My biggest fear is of accidentally becoming a mother. Something we decided against a long time ago. And, a decision that I certainly have no regrets about.
4. Relationships With People Change Over Time
I am not the same person now that I was in high school, or during law school, or even two years ago. As much as I have changed, so have the people I have surrounded myself with over the decades. I have finally accepted the fact that people change, and those relationships change as well. People who were once so important in my life are no longer a part of it. I think this increasingly happens as I continue getting older.
Luckily, the converse is true as well. I have new friends now that I feel as though I have known forever. I relish these relationships just as much as I did my historical friendships.
I have accepted that my relationships, like the people who are part of them, change over time. There is no reason to force myself to remain friends with people who I am not happy being with, or who don’t understand, or at least support, the choices I have made in my life.
What this all means is that I am happy to have lived the life I have had so far. I know I have seen more and experienced more than most people do in twice as long. I am lucky enough to have found a partner who loves me and supports me and can stand to be around me.
We spend an obscene amount of time together. For most couples who have been married for 13 years, this would be a problem. For us, it seems to work. At times we have joked about whether we are the cutest couple in Ubud – in fact, we may be the most nauseating.
On Getting Older
People tend to react in surprise when they hear that Eric is 40 and I am 39. They say we look too young for our age. I think it is because we are happy. Because we consciously made a decision to live our lives in a way that made us happy, that provided us freedom. We do not stress, and we do not live in fear. If I were to die tomorrow, I would die happy. I did not wait until I am 65 to start living my life. I am doing it now, on my own terms, and in my own way.
And, this is what I think about as I stare at myself in the mirror, with black plastic covers over my ears that make me look a little like Princess Leia, as I wait for the color to seep in and work its magic – to make me look even younger, or more feminine. I don’t wear makeup, I don’t “do” my hair. The decision to cover my grays was one that I did not make lightly, kind of like the decision I made to start living my life. Neither decision is one that I regret, particularly as I continue getting older.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.