ONE clear sign of aging is when you become worried about aging.

Many people say that age is not a number, but rather a state of mind. If so, then the process of aging must be a state of mind too. You are getting older not because of the number of years that has passed since your mother pushed you out into this world. You are getting older because you become psychologically and mentally predisposed to bouts of obsession and anxiety over hitting some age marker, such as being “twenteen”, lampas kalendaryo, midlife age, etc.

My high school friends and I were out one Friday night when the topic of conversation turned to the fact that we were now all in our thirties.

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“Yeah, I’m thirty, BUT,” one of my friends interjected triumphantly, “one time a guy thought I was just 22 or 23.” Another piped up, “Me too! While I was vacationing in the US to visit my college-age cousin, everyone thought I was a student in the university.” Soon, stories of thankfully “underestimated” ages began flying around. The more times we were mistaken for being younger than our actual age, the better we felt.

If that is not another clear sign of aging, I don’t know what is. Because I remember being in high school and college and trying to dress, act and talk mature. When you have the benefit of being in a numerical age that is considered young, you want to appear older, to be taken seriously. It is when you hit a numerical age that is considered not-so-young anymore that you start wanting to appear young.

This reminds me of a Caucasian friend who was surprised to find out that Asians use an assortment of whitening potions and lotions. She wondered why Asian women would want to lighten up our naturally glowing tanned skin, when it is the kind of coloring Caucasian women are sunbathing and spray-tanning themselves for.

Human nature. When we have something, we don’t appreciate it because we want something we don’t have anymore or don’t have yet. When we were young, we couldn’t wait to grow up. Now that we’re grown up, we wish we could turn back time. When will we just enjoy the age we are in? When we’re 50? When we’re 70? When we’re grasping for our last breath?

As much as I appreciate the dermatologically and medically substantiated fact that our skin and body metabolism are usually better while we are in our twenties, I don’t really miss being a “twenty something.”

Some of the things I could do then like stay up until 2 p.m. partying or hanging out with friends, I don’t mind giving up for more relaxing conversations over dessert and coffee until 11 o’ clock.

I don’t miss feeling a mixture of shame and guilt at the fact that I had to live with my mother, eat the food she purchased and use the electricity and water she paid for because I didn’t make enough money on my own. I don’t miss hating my body and looks so much, being insecure about how I appear or how I look in comparison to other women.

I don’t miss being so anxious about being in a relationship with someone. I don’t miss the confusion about who I am, what I want to do with my life.

It is not that I know the answers already, nor is it because I got married. Even before, when I was near the end of my 20s years, I started feeling a sort of acceptance with my situation. Beginning that time, I felt that even if I still lived with my mother, still didn’t lose 15 pounds, still did not know what I really wanted for my life, but I was becoming better at being ok with things being so.

I know being in my 30s will not be paradise. At some point, I’ll probably worry and nitpick over slower metabolism and memory lapses. If I start thinking that being in my 30s is the best time of my life, woe to my state of mind when I hit 40. It’s more that I realized this: we age. So? It’s a fact of life. Much better to remember why it’s great that we don’t stay one age, and to be thankful for blessings like looking so good and living life so well you transcend the numerical age. It’s better to just live life the best way we can, to be as good as we can be to ourselves and others, to try to serve God as faithfully as we can. Let the years, let time go on marching forward. We have no control over that. What we have control over is how we decide to live our lives as we age.

(Jocy L. So-Yeung teaches at Davao Christian High School. She will turn 31 before anyone else in her high school barkada.)