Monday Morning Wake-Up Call (…the senescence is almost undetectable)

I turn 60 today, and I feel vaguely embarrassed about it, like I’ve somehow let myself go, like I’ve been bingeing on decades and wound up in this unappealing condition. Chances are, most of you haven’t crossed this border station yet, so you’d better listen up. Because if you play your cards right, it’s going to happen to you too.

Here’s what it feels like to turn 60: weird. On the one hand, you’re still going to the gym and to dinner parties. Sixty-year-olds still perform surgery on people who could choose other doctors. There’s no dithering yet—the senescence is almost undetectable.

But on the other hand, you have been on this Earth for a really, really long time. […] How can all of the things that happened since that photograph was taken have occurred in one lifetime? How can people walk around holding this much of the past inside them? How do they possibly add in another two or even three decades of experience? I’m topped up! I’m going to have to start erasing the larger files. Maybe I already have and don’t know it. […] But then it got real. One day a few weeks ago, I got old. It just suddenly happened, and there isn’t a sports car in the world I can buy to make it otherwise.  […]

There was a time when I could manage my cancer without having to understand myself as “disabled,” but at 60, that time has passed.

I sat down, and my bones settled so heavily around meand the relief was so immediatethat I knew I’d done the right thing. But I also knew that through that simple, necessary gesture, I had become old. […]

I’ve actually begun to feel a bit emotional and proud. Just by staying alive, I’ve witnessed a lot of life and a lot of history. I’ve done so many things in these six decades—I’ve survived some serious shit. In many of the ways that don’t involve the mortal coil, I’m stainless steel. And on the inside, I’m still me—probably more myself than ever…

—   Caitlin Flanagan, from “The Day I Got Old” (The Atlantic, November 14, 2021)

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