Dion M. Harris
You couldn’t pay me to be 25 again.
Acne, angst and naiveté are, blessedly, now a world away. What an adventure it’s been!
In the 19 years since I was a quarter-century old, I’ve cultivated patience; perfected my inner and outer self; broadened my worldview considerably; grown ever more resourceful; and sometimes marvel at my gritty resilience. When I was 25, I was smart, ambitious, idealistic and eager to please.
Now, I am calm. Able. Unflappable. Efficient. Teeming with insight.
Yet, for nearly four years I’ve been unsuccessful at securing gainful, steady employment. Both in and outside of my field. At 44, am I too experienced – or not experienced enough for the 21st Century workplace? Too persistent a journalist – or not persistent enough? Too entrepreneurial? The conundrums keep coming, but I’m just trying to do me: Always following my bliss. While paying the bills.
That said, I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon in contemporary society: Americans are getting older and noticeably fatter – but not grayer. There seems to be a resigned, collective shame associated with the hoary head – especially among women – when gray hair by its very nature tags one as hardy, tested, refined. Youth culture, on the other hand, celebrates the new, the unexplored, the coarse.
I always say: Just because it’s new, doesn’t mean it’s better.
Have you noticed how very head-strong those gray hairs are? I commune with them daily, impressed and oddly protective.
I’ve always been mistaken for being younger than I really am. When I was 14, I once called a DJ who accused me of being a “small, black child.” When I was 27, lascivious old neighborhood men swore I was 19. At 37, I went through a spell where I kept attracting 27- to 29-year-old – and completely inappropriate – suitors.
With all of this in mind, I decided a long time ago – around the time I first liberated my hair- that there’d be no more dye jobs for me. Even when I went gray. I want the respect that comes with age. I also want folks to know that I’m grown, and that there’s much more to me than meets the eye.
So after surviving a catastrophic man-made disaster largely on my own; several automobile accidents that weren’t my fault; emotional abuse; sexual harassment; sexual assault; and now Recession-fueled poverty, I’ve been graced by many more silver-gray strands lately. And I love them all. I won’t be letting them go.
Sometimes, it seems, it’s easier to pretend to be who we’re not, than to fully be who we are. The rapidly-changing, often-confusing world around us keeps making increasingly intrusive demands upon us. We acquiesce; complying duplicitously.
I find Western culture’s deification of youth – and the new – misguided and immature. As Scripture and Steel Pulse remind us, “The race is not for the swift, but those who endure.” If you’re doing anything at all right, you will grow older. Accept this, and commit to growing better.
I’m still “high-school skinny,” yet fitter than I’ve ever been. My – finally!- acne-free skin glows caramel even, from within. But this sprightly, fresh crop of gray hairs I sport confirms exactly who I am: tough and completely at ease with me. And you.