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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Forget Age, Choose to Measure Your Life in Experiences Instead

I’ve always struggled with my age. I’ve wept at the sight of a new eye wrinkle, avoided showing my passport like the plague, and spent more than I’m willing to admit on anti-aging creams that don’t really do much at all.

Perhaps it’s because, for a long period of time, I was defined by being “the youngest” to do X. “Oh, it doesn’t matter” I’d tell myself. “I’m the youngest manager.” “The youngest employee.” “The youngest.” My age was my numeric measure of success.

And then, of course, I got older.

Our generation has grown up under the pressure of Forbes’ “30 Under 30” lists. We spent our teenage years craving to be older and lying about our age, only to hit our twenties and declare ourselves as “past it.” It’s confusing. It can be exhausting.

But why do we allow our age, this merely factual number akin to shoe or dress size, define who we are?

Because I, like you, am not my age. I’m the child who won a national poetry competition, the teenager who fought for a lucrative internship at British Vogue, the young woman who works for major clients, and has created employment opportunities for others. I’m also the songs I love singing badly, the books I lose myself in, the articles I’m in awe of, the places I chose to travel, the friends I chose to see, and all of the small things and experiences that make up who I am. And I will be all of these things at ages 24, 46, 79, and so on.

If you think about it, our age is perhaps the most boring thing about us. Some people are old souls at 18, and others are hopelessly young at 90. Time is a concept that we created. Getting older, rather, is about getting to know yourself better, making yourself the priority, and becoming a little more you each day.

So, let’s throw away the rule book, dismiss the headlines, and refuse the ideals that told us growing older is a negative thing. Let’s ignore the stigmas that tell us that people over a certain age don’t get promoted, or can’t switch careers, or are not tech-savvy enough to work at a startup. It’s simply not true and there are people disproving it all the time.

Let’s stop cringing at the milestones of 30, 40, 50, and 80, and celebrate the fact that we’re healthy. Growing older is a privilege denied to many. The experience and intelligence that comes with age is invaluable, and nothing about that number should deter you from going after your dreams—no matter how “far” into your life it may seem. As cliché as it sounds, if there’s a will, there’s a way. So if you’re putting off finding a new job, starting on a new career path, or picking up a new skill simply because you’re “too old”—know that you’re using that as an excuse.

Let’s also stop holding onto our youth like sand slipping through our fingers and let go. Being young, really, wasn’t that great anyway. Would you honestly want to be that naive, lost, and broke again?

Here’s to measuring your life in stories, rather than years. Here’s to looking at your resume and feeling proud of all that you’ve accomplished, instead of wondering where the time went. Instead of thinking about all of the things we’ll miss about our past, let’s focus on the things we’re looking forward to. Each birthday isn’t lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity.

It’s never too late to start celebrating your life and going after what you want, fine lines and all.

This article was originally published on It has been republished here with permission.

Photo of birthday courtesy of Tamara Erbacher/Getty Images.