THE BEAUTY OF BEING A BEGINNER

Thinking of learning something new? Our resident life-affirming truth seeker Amy Edwards says: Do it. And when you begin, you may just find the fountain of youth.

Aging? Personally, I’m not a fan. Are you?

Well, when I truly think it, I know that I am limiting myself by my definition of aging. I’m thinking of the visible parts. I’m thinking of the lines on my face. I’m thinking of the outward signs that tell the story of my years on this planet. And I’m definitely thinking of my knees, my metabolism, and my stamina. One look at Instagram, and I know my spring chicken days are behind me. Perhaps. Or, perhaps, not.

I adhere to the generally agreed-upon and proven combat techniques: I work out fairly regularly, and I eat healthily. Oh, and I inject things into my face— based on what aesthetic aging experts claim helps combats the signs of aging. And I burn my skin off, and I buy products that make promises. And I ask myself why? Are those procedures and potions really keeping me younger and more youthful? Are they keeping me from aging?

It’s the million-dollar question we are all likely asking ourselves. Upon much recent soul-searching, I have concluded that the injections and the lasers and the everything are not so much a vain attempt to stop aging, but, rather, they are ultimately an attempt to make the reflection in the mirror simply match what I feel like inside. And that inside feels, yes, younger than the outside may appear to some.

Recently, I gathered with a friend who turned fifty last year. He’s currently the CEO of a tech startup, and he was telling me how his job is pretty unusual for someone his age. Usually, he shared, leaders of startups are much younger. He’s in a high-stress, highly competitive field with people fifteen to twenty-five years younger than him. “There was a time about ten years ago when I was done. My life was all set,” he recalls. “But I wasn’t happy. I felt old. I was bored. What I’m doing now is so tough, and I don’t have to be doing it. But you’ve got to be grinding away at some hard problem to keep feeling purposeful and alive. It really does keep me young.”

I realized that I might actually be the same way. Perhaps I feel younger than the number of candles on my cake because I tend to take on new challenges. Just like my startup friend, I never thought that I would be adopting brand-new roles past my thirties. It seems crazy to record your first album— and a rock album, no less— at age 41, like I did. I took up acting at age 40 and didn’t even have my first role until age 42. I was a full-on beginner, but I loved the new worlds that had opened up to me.

There is beauty in being a beginner. I’m a firm believer that the wide-open eyes of the novice are incredibly attractive, even when surrounded by crow’s feet. Once you overcome the slight embarrassment of being a beginner, fresh life and the fountain of youth await.

According to a health study from Harvard, the number one way to combat an aging mind is the continuance of learning. How’s that? When we learn, we are training our brains to solve and to stay active and fresh. For me, this spills over into every part of my life, boosting my mental attitude and providing me with a better sense of humor and increased confidence. Plus, I always maintain that when you are working on something new and determined to master it, that’s sexy as hell at any age for anyone.
It’s not about the success, either. No matter what we are learning, the point is that we are throwing ourselves into the new. The things that make one youthful aren’t the ones that so literally focus on youth, and our faces will tell the story accordingly. As Julia Roberts famously put it, “Your face tells a story… and it shouldn’t be a story about your drive to the doctor’s office.”

So could I be a fan of this ‘aging’ business after all? Quite possibly. Maybe I’ll take pause before I make that next cosmetic-procedure appointment. Maybe I’ll pick another new endeavor to enjoy and to learn, and trust that beginner-hood will get me what I really desire. And it likely will for you, too.