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Slices of Life: Young on the Inside

A very good friend shared a written message regarding thoughts on aging with me. It was about growing old, but not feeling like you are growing old. It gave me pause to ponder.

Your hair may be graying. Your skin thins and sags. Laugh lines — aka wrinkles — provide evidence of the happiness you’ve experienced. Medical issues may be more prevalent and demand more of your attention than in the past. All around you, your body shows obvious signs of aging, but inside you’re still the same you — youthful and young.

Isn’t that the truth?

We all grow old, on the outside; but don’t we feel young on the inside?

I know I do.

Do we ever change from that young, energetic spirit that once embodied our bodies into the old, wrinkled self that our bathroom mirror now houses?

I know I don’t want to — or plan to.

Time changes our physical beings. But it doesn’t change all the rest: our character, our sense of humor, our wisdom, our knowledge, our sense of adventure, our free spirit, our sassiness, our love for life, our soul.

We are so much more than the skin on our bones. We are so much more than the cells that make up our bodies. We are so much more than wrinkles and gray hair, sagging jowls and sagging — well, I won’t go there.

Would’t it be cool if there were a mirror that could see us from the inside, as we see ourselves? As we truly feel? As we truly are?

Sigh. There are no magic mirrors. 

Our eyes, and our mirrors, are constrained to the visual rules of Mother Earth’s three-or-so dimensions. It’s only when we leapfrog over these facts that we see things not as they physically are, but as they truly are.

All too often, that knowledge comes with the lessons of time. And by the time we learn this, youth has often been spent.

It’s at this point, you look in the mirror and realize the only one who sees who you really are — still — is you, and perhaps (if you are lucky) those who have watched the calendar turn, year after year, with you, alongside you.

Those who have known you — inside and out — for decades. Since band class in junior high. Since sophomore year in high school. Since then, whenever that was, when youth was easy and undeniable and under-appreciated and so very there for the taking.

But then, like sands through the hourglass… 

Youth fades. Along the way — through the days and months and years and decades — it gives way to time and time creates not only wrinkled skin but the cloak of invisibility. It comes upon us gradually — much like age is said to creep up on us. 

In our culture, youth is shiny and bright and very visible. Aging is not. So as the calendar turns over each year and our age number increases by one, we become less youthful and a little less visible to those who merely see what is in front of them. 

We don the cloak of invisibility.

But perhaps invisibility isn’t so bad. Perhaps it is even under-rated. Perhaps it can be your secret. Our secret.

Because in the end, it doesn’t really matter what the mirror reflects back upon you. It doesn’t matter what other people see, or think they see when they meet you face to face.

Because you know. You. Know. 

Age is a gift, and in such, this is written in truth. In some regards, increasing age brings with it decreasing visibility within the norms of this physical world. But that is okay. 

It is more than okay.

The beauty of youth gives way to the beauty of age. And if you learn to see that, really see that, you are truly bestowed.

Growing old is inevitable.

Becoming old is a choice.

What you see in the mirror is your decision — at any age.

And that, my friends, is truly magic.

— Jill Pertler’s column Slices of Life appears regularly in the Times. She can be reached at