Your Future Self

January 9, 2014

Pfeiffer Beach California

Image and text by Gabrielle.

I feel like I age in spurts — like I look the same for years at a time, then suddenly, over a few weeks, I look several years older. For example, I’m quite sure I could have passed for 20 until I was 25, then overnight, I looked like I was 25 — that sort of thing. And from what I can tell, I think I’m in one of my aging spurts right this minute. When it ends, I’ll tell you how old I look. Hah!

Late last night, I was taking off my makeup and taking out my contacts and chatting with Ben Blair about my possible aging spurt, and I asked him how he pictured his adult life when he was a kid or a teenager. I was curious to know how far into the future he had imagined himself. We both discovered that we hadn’t thought past 25. We had vaguely assumed a stereotypical life of kids, house, pet — but we had never considered what we ourselves would be like in our 30′s or beyond. It made me wonder if that is a typical thing for a child (not being able to conceive of a future self), or if there are people that have thought ahead to every stage of their someday life.

Ben mentioned he’d read something about this topic, so I looked it up — it’s an NPR article. Turns out, people that envision their future self tend to make better decisions now. Which makes sense, of course! If you can picture yourself as an 85-year-old, an actual person who has a weekly tennis match and is learning to speak Chinese, I can imagine you’d be more likely to take better care of your body today.

One quote from the article that stuck with me is: “…when we think about ourselves in the future we actually use the same part of our brain that we use when we think about a stranger.” To me, that says we honestly can’t imagine that we ourselves will really, truly age — a stranger will age, but not us. That we truly think we’ll be young (or at least our current age) forever. Fascinating!

So my questions for you are: How often, if ever, do you picture your future self? And as a child, did you ever consider the idea that someday you would be 35, or 46, or 57, or 78…? I’d love to know!

P.S. — I imagine this is true for most people, but I don’t really look in a mirror except during my morning and evening routines (and sigh, sometimes I skip the evening routine). This means I’m fairly regularly surprised when I look in the mirror and wonder, “Did I look like that all day?” Or, “When did that lovely little blemish arrive?” Tell me I’m not the only one! Are you ever surprised when you look in the mirror?

P.P.S — Yesterday was packed full of Alt Summit meetings and I didn’t get a chance to respond to your excellent comments about zero tolerance. But I’m off to do so now! Also, watch for a second Design Mom post later today.

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{ 2 trackbacks }

Your Future Self | Jerbelle Lau
January 9, 2014 at 12:56 pm
northstory notes - January 10, 2014 : northstory
January 9, 2014 at 10:14 pm

{ 100 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shannon { A Mom's Year } January 9, 2014 at 12:38 pm

You know, that’s really true. I’m trying to imagine myself at 60 or 80 right now, and it’s difficult. Maybe I’m afraid to tempt fate. ;)

I would say that, rather than specifically imagining myself at future ages, I’ve watched my grandparents and parents and seen what works for them (or doesn’t). Grandpa’s daily exercise habit (and subsequent great health at 88) inspires me to exercise, too. At the same time, my beloved grandmother’s struggle with dementia has me thinking about ways I can try to help keep my parents, my husband, and myself from going through that, too. Lots of crossword puzzles and learning new things, right?!

Great questions!

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2 Martha January 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm

I love this topic! Since about my teens I have had this vague romantic dream of being an old eccentric lady sitting on the porch with my husband holding each others wrinkly hands. Within that dream I knew we had kids and grandkids etc. The funny thing about that has always been that I couldn’t ever fathom, and I still can’t now, the journey to that dream beyond the next year or two. I find it fun.

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3 Martha January 9, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Just to clarify, when I say old, I mean at least our 80′s.

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4 Design Mom January 9, 2014 at 1:06 pm

I like your vague romantic dream!

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5 amelia January 9, 2014 at 1:18 pm

I have had this same dream since my teens. I have a vision of a gorgeous wraparound porch and all my kids and grandkids running around while I sit with my husband in a rocker built for two.

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6 Alex January 9, 2014 at 12:47 pm

I never looked younger than I am… And I don’t think that is going to change. I have been pleased with aging in the sense that I seem to be less vain as I grow older. Which I love! Vanity is so tiresome!

And I often think of myself as an old lady… But I am a hospice doc… So the grace of getting to old age is not lost on me. There is a Native American thought I have heard that looking at one selfs in the mirror too much is not natural. We were not meant to study our own looks. I love that idea. I wish I could abide!

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7 Design Mom January 9, 2014 at 1:07 pm

“Vanity is so tiresome!”

So true. I hope I too am becoming less vain as I grow older.

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8 cath January 9, 2014 at 12:49 pm

You’re not alone, I sometimes like myself when looking in the mirror, but other times, I want to say “who’s that old, tired-looking woman in there?” !

But what really gets to me are selfies, if I accidentally switch my i-phone to the selfie command, I’m horrified at the person suddenly reflected on the screen, ho-rri-fied!

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9 Design Mom January 9, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Hah! Been there done that. When the camera accidentally turn to selfie mode I can’t turn it back fast enough!! If I turn it to selfie mode intentionally, I’m more mentally prepared. : )

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10 Kristen January 9, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Cath, I have never commented on any blog I follow, but I had to tell you that I laughed out loud at your accidental selfie comment! “Hor-ri-fied” is right!

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11 Ellie January 9, 2014 at 1:00 pm

I thought for as long as I can remember that I when I would get old, I would feel really free, like “I don’t give a damn” free. My morning image this morning certainly shocked me. And, when will selfies end? I’ve seen boys with duck faces!!

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12 Design Mom January 9, 2014 at 1:11 pm

In case you missed it, we had a fun discussion of Selfies last year. When I wrote that post, I had the intention of maybe increasing the amount of selfies I was sharing, because feedback from readers told me it helped them connect to me more. But man, I find it hard to take selfies!

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13 Jen January 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Boys with duck faces… hilarious.

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14 J January 9, 2014 at 1:04 pm

I think I look old in photos the past few years in the mirror I just see me. A few summers ago, I got asked if I was the mother of the bride at church. Noooo…..TWICE! Luckily my husband’s niece was a BYU student. (hence, young bride!) The other day at church someone thought I looked like a teenager. When I was 20 I didn’t like looking like I was 15, but now I do. :)

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15 Barefoot Hippie Girl January 9, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I picture myself running still when I am older. Running with my husband when we are both in our 60s and 70s. Hopefully not being the really wrinkly and skinny old woman. But active still.

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16 Tasha January 9, 2014 at 7:13 pm

I love your comment! I feel like I’m the only adult really who loves to run around with the kids of the family especially barefoot all summer long…a wonderful feeling!

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17 Sally January 9, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I find when I think of myself in the future, it’s linked to events like my children graduating or at their wedding and then I find myself envisioning someone like my mom and not me…I guess it’s something a little too uncomprehendable (is that even a word), so I insert the thing most familiar. One nice thing is I have much older sisters and they have all aged wonderfully so I always picture myself looking younger than I really am. That NPR article sounds interesting…I’m going to have to go read it now.

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18 Design Mom January 9, 2014 at 1:15 pm

I have two older sisters, but they’re only a few years older than me — but still, I use them as a reference for what’s heading my way.

My hair starting turning gray when I was 13, and I started dyeing my roots at around 27. But my sisters didn’t gray prematurely, so I watch them to imagine what an alternate graying timeline would be for me, so that I can gauge when I might feel comfortable leaving the dyeing behind.

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19 Katie B January 9, 2014 at 3:09 pm

My mom had the rule that it was time to go grey the minute she had her first grandchild. Definitely made it a happy thing for mom.

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20 Heather HS January 9, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Love that!!

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21 Robin January 9, 2014 at 1:12 pm

To your PS: I look in the mirror much more frequently than that! I would have thought the opposite of your gut – what’s everyone else’s daily mirror routine? Every time I use the restroom I look in the mirror. That’s probably 6-8 times a day, plus the occasional make up touch up. I know you mentioned being able to hold your bladder for long periods of time.

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22 Design Mom January 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Interesting connection, Robin! I bet you’re right. I bet my infrequent bathroom visits are tied to my infrequent mirror time.

I hope other readers chime in with their average number of mirror checks in a day!

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23 Robin January 9, 2014 at 1:19 pm

also I’m 29. Does it decrease with age?

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24 Design Mom January 9, 2014 at 1:28 pm

I haven’t noticed a decrease with age, but I have noticed a difference depending on how many mirrors I have hanging in my home and where they are located. For example, if I had a mirror at the front door, I imagine I would glance at myself as I walked in and out from errands.

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25 Colleen January 9, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Every time I use the restroom, plus sometimes guilty of glancing at myself in the rearview mirror in the car (at a stoplight)… I’m 25 so maybe it does decrease with age!

26 CMN January 9, 2014 at 6:33 pm

I do have a mirror by the front door and I NEVER look in it. I completely forget its there. In fact, if I’m headed out and want to do a quick lipstick check, I dash back to the bathroom mirror. LOL

27 Caitlin Mallery January 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm

I will be 25 in a couple months, that is probably as far as I thought as a child. I had a lot of vague ideas about things I would do when I grew up, but didn’t really think about corresponding ages. To a child age is irrelevant, there are parent adults, non-parent adults, and grandparent adults. Every adult met is classified like that.
My husband and I talk a lot about what we want to be like over the next several decades. It involves doing a lot of stuff we have dreamed about since we were kids. I hope I can look over my life and say it was not wasted. I am really enjoying you posts lately. Thought-provoking and fun!

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28 Design Mom January 9, 2014 at 1:26 pm

So true, Caitlin! One funny thing for me to discover as a parent (maybe everyone else already knew this) is when I realized that my kids see all adults as basically the same age. They seem to be able to contrast a 20 year old and an 80 year old, but everyone in between is just a grownup.

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29 Amanda N. January 9, 2014 at 1:20 pm

When I was a late teen and starting college, I always thought about my future self in terms of being 25. That would be the magical age at which I had really come into adulthood: a career, a husband, a home, etc. But in a few months I will turn 24 and none of those goals are looking particularly attainable by 25, so I’ve noticed that in the past year I’ve started conceiving of them at the age of thirty. I don’t like to think past thirty because I’m afraid of what my reaction will be if I haven’t attained those classic markers of adulthood by that age.

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30 Design Mom January 9, 2014 at 1:32 pm

I love your comment, Amanda. I’m sure many of us do the same thing — push back our goal dates when our imagined existence isn’t quite happening yet. I can’t imagine a more natural reaction.

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31 Sonya January 9, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Amanda – I read your comment and I kind of feel like I had the same thoughts at 30. I am 32 and I have a career, but I don’t have a husband or a home. I rent and I’m single. I have recently come to the realization that my career is not necessarily a fulfilling one. It is a good one but I would like to be doing something else. Who is to say what makes you (or me, or anyone) an adult? We can each define adulthood in our own way. Some people buy houses early, some get married young, some don’t find the true career they love until they’ve officially retired and started their own business. I have let go of the notion that I need to do things by a certain age and I am just enjoying the journey.

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32 Heidi January 9, 2014 at 1:21 pm

As a kid I used to think about being an adult and being able to eat cereal for every meal because I would be in charge, I was going to be a life guard or a cooking lady on TV. As a teenager I mostly thought about how I would be different than the adults in my life (i am not) but probably did not think much beyond what you did.
Now in my mid 30′s I think a lot about my future self, but I should be basking in all that is great now: my 4 kids and watching them grow. But now I dream of my future self, and it is mostly selfish. I imagine having time to do all that I want, training for an Ironman, placing in my age group in races (because of default), gardening, throwing on my wheel, how clean my house will be, serving a mission with my husband (only non selfish desire!) But it is true. I know that having a vision is keeping me healthy and strong for these endeavors…and the GRANDCHILDREN i will have.

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33 Design Mom January 9, 2014 at 1:34 pm

I’m inspired by your comment, Heidi! I rarely if ever imagine my future grandchildren, but I should. I love that your vision is keeping you healthy and strong. I need to develop my own vision that will get me making healthier decisions.

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34 Traci January 9, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Very interesting! I’m with you on not looking in the mirror too often and being surprised sometimes.

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35 KatieK January 9, 2014 at 1:28 pm

I think about aging only in that I think about being retired (I’m in my early 40s, so have some time!). I imagine that next phase of life, getting to spend more time doing things I love (hobbies), traveling, and enjoying grandbabies (those are waaaaay in the future, I hope!). Occasionally, I worry that I’m tempting fate to think we’ll have all that time and good health, but I’m trying to worry less this year :)

I realize that even when I look in the mirror (getting ready in the a.m., washing my hands, etc), I rarely take the time to really look at myself, you know? I may notice a blemish, wrinkle or something I don’t like about myself, but I have a hard time judging how old I look. Although as I’m writing this, I’m realizing I’m very judgmental about how I look. I suppose that’s another topic entirely, isn’t it?

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36 Design Mom January 9, 2014 at 1:35 pm

I do know what you mean about not really looking at myself in the mirror. I might look at my lipstick or my hair, but I rarely give myself a long deep look to get a true overall picture.

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37 Janet January 9, 2014 at 1:28 pm

I remember when I was young taking the city bus to the mall and would see little old ladies all dressed up going shopping and I thought, wow, I hope do that when I’m an old lady. It was exciting then to take the bus somewhere! :)

Now I am older and am often surprised at my own reflection –especially in the car for some reason (should take the bus maybe)! I sometimes think of myself seeing my daughter graduate from high school or get married, and think I won’t look any older than I do now! That’s my hope anyway.

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38 Design Mom January 9, 2014 at 1:38 pm

“and think I won’t look any older than I do now”

I was thinking of this exact thing just the other day! Our little Oscar’s birthday is today. My mother was almost 30 when I was born, and I was almost 30 when Oscar was born. So it suddenly occurred to me, that the way I picture my mother, and the age she has appeared to me over the years, is probably very much what Oscar is seeing. Very strange for me to ponder!

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39 Kelly January 9, 2014 at 1:29 pm

I was a little bit (but not very much) wild in my late teens & twenties. I honestly couldn’t imagine meeting someone who would put up with me, or love me enough to marry. When I thought of my future, I imagined myself as a tough single mom with one son, a dog, and we were all drove around in an open-air Jeep! :D
HA.

Cut to today: very happily married for almost 17 years, 2 kids (a girl and boy), ensconced in suburbia. No dog, but we’ve recently acquired 2 spoiled guinea pigs.

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40 Design Mom January 9, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Your comment made me laugh, Kelly!

I’ve jokingly told our kids that the family tattoo policy is: not allowed until you are at least 40.

I just think it’s so hard to imagine that the things you love as a teenager are not going to be as important to you just a few years down the road. : )

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41 Sonya January 9, 2014 at 1:39 pm

I’ve always looked younger than my age. I will be 33 in June but I am frequently asked if I’m 25/26. On occasion I’ll get 22/23 and I am not complaining! I just have a young face. I can’t imagine what I will look like when I’m in my 40′s, 50′s, and up, but I can certainly imagine what I would like my life to be like and where I would like to be. I picture a silhouette of myself doing the things I want to be doing.

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42 Emily January 9, 2014 at 1:40 pm

I think that when I imagine myself in the future it is usually in the context of what kind of mother/person I want to be. I’m not a mom yet but I often think about who I would like to be when I take on that roll. When I think about it though, I never assign an age to the future person I’m thinking of, just a type of person I want to be!!

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43 sarah January 9, 2014 at 1:59 pm

I love this post, because it’s showed me that I’m not alone or weird in having trouble picturing myself in the future. Not just the far future, either–even the near future gives me pause. That whole ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ question is one I dread in any situation. As a kid my future thoughts varied based on age. When I was really little I wondered what I’d be like at 16. Then as I got older I pushed the future age out, but didn’t go much past the mid-20s. The closest I’ve gotten to future-thinking is realizing that some portions of my life turned out different than I’d expected (i.e. I got married and had kids earlier than I’d anticipated), but that’s about it.

I’ve been working a lot lately on trying to do more future-thinking (without disrupting my goal of ‘being in the moment’ too much, either…ah, balance). We’ll see if this way of thinking is anything like a muscle and gets stronger with exercise :)

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44 Michelle January 9, 2014 at 2:02 pm

This is fascinating. I never pictured myself past about 25 either. But I didn’t necessarily think about the age, I just imagined growing up, going to college, and getting married. Which I assumed would sum up to about 25 years old. Maybe that’s part of why it’s hard still being single—I never pictured what I would do as the years went on if I didn’t end up having a family, so I feel a little bit at a loss sometimes. Thanks for the interesting read!

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45 Jenny Bailey January 9, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I’m 32 and I don’t think I ever imagined the life I have now (although I am very grateful for it!). I have recently started thinking of myself in the future and I know I want to be very smart and always have long hair, even when it turns totally gray, which I will tie it up with ribbons and scarves because I don’t think, even then, I’ll believe that “age-appropriate” will apply to me.

And I am totally opposite when it comes to looking at my reflection. I look every chance I get. And I always strike a flattering pose and compliment myself, like, “Oooh, look how pretty I am!” I think that probably sounds a bit immature and maybe even vain but I’m a stay at home mom so I can’t always count on someone else to be around to compliment me so, just in case, I do it myself. Ha!

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46 KelliO January 9, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Ha, this made me laugh! I’m way too self-conscious to strike a pose. If I saw you do it, it would probably make me want to be friends with you!

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47 Design Mom January 10, 2014 at 10:49 am

I was delighted to read you strike a pose and compliment yourself. That’s brilliant! If only all women did this instead of mentally calling out their perceived “flaws” every time they see their reflection.

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48 Julie January 9, 2014 at 2:49 pm

When I was a child and thought about the year 2000, I dismissed it as SO far away because I would be so old–in my 30s. Now it is 13 years past that time and I am 49! It wasn’t until my mid-forties that I started envisioning myself with more detail in the future. Midlife has done something to me–really made me realize that I won’t be here forever so I better enjoy what I have going NOW. Also, I need to treat my body and spirit with greater respect and love so that I WILL be able to enjoy the decades ahead.

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49 Tania January 9, 2014 at 2:49 pm

My mom once told me that you never really feel your age: you just feel like yourself. One may look old, but be young at heart. Back then I remember thinking “But how can you not feel 40? or 50? That’s old.”

My grandmother turned 50 when I was born. Throughout my childhood, she was old. Grandmas are old, everyone knows that! Now I have a daughter and I look at my parents who are 52 and 59… and guess what? They’re young! They’re (relatively) healthy, they’re full of energy, they have more time to themselves now that the kids are grown up. It’s a whole new life! I know it’s not always easy for them and that they sometimes mourn life with us as children, but I am so proud of them for trying to move on. It makes me a little less afraid of growing “old”.

This said, I also never really pictured myself past 25, which I am now. So I guess I’m in for a lot of surprises! I am just really glad that I have met my husband and soul mate by this point, so I have someone to hold my hand along the way. And to tell me I’m beautiful. Because mirrors lie. :)

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50 Design Mom January 10, 2014 at 10:52 am

I totally connected with this. Your comment about your grandmother being old at 50 made me laugh!

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51 jen January 9, 2014 at 2:50 pm

i think the only thought i had about being older as a child was being free, living on my own, being an artist and having many children. i do remember wanting to have about 10 kids when i was young. i also wanted to be a teacher or snow white.

then in my early twenties, i thought if you were over 30 you were an old person.

now that i will be 40 this year, i think about old age through the eyes of our parents (my mom and my in laws). i see them getting old in front of my eyes and when i was young i never saw them age. now that they’re old i see through them how being 60 and 70 looks like and i think about the next few decades in front of me.

and yes, i am surprised by the reflection in the mirror. i ask myself is that me? and as i get older i care more about how i look. i rarely wore makeup but now i try not to leave the house without my “face”!

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52 cassandraelaine January 9, 2014 at 2:50 pm

A friend and I were discussing this today with regard to how many children we might choose to have. Do we choose to have the number of 2 year-olds we want to have in the house or do we try to envision how many adult children we would like to have in our 60′s. I can confidently say that I’ve always fitted into the latter category. I have a HARD time with little ones (and my house is currently full of them) but I don’t resent them because I hope to have rich relationships with their adult selves.

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53 KelliO January 9, 2014 at 3:37 pm

So glad you said this! We’re having our first next month, and I’m going to remember this as we grow our family!

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54 Ginger January 9, 2014 at 3:03 pm

The mirror comments are making me smile. I’ll add to the convo by saying I’m 37 and I probably average 5 looks a day. Gabrielle, I imagine your life too busy to spend extra seconds looking in the mirror. They all add up, right? The thoughts I have had about aging are mostly triggered by seeing older women with no wrinkles. I’ve decided for myself, I definitely want to be a wrinkly grandma.

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55 Jen January 9, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Pardon me for not answering your questions, but I am so distracted by the beauty of the beach/kids image that I just have to say I hope you frame that. Gorgeous in so many ways.

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56 Design Mom January 10, 2014 at 10:53 am

Thank you, Jen! I confess, I was very pleased about that shot. : )

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57 Katie B January 9, 2014 at 3:18 pm

I only look in the mirror twice a day. The mirror time diminished significantly when I had my son who is now 2. Self just became so much less important. I think just twice a day maybe isn’t that healthy. Perhaps I can find happy medium.

I have often thought about how even though my age changes I still feel like the same person inside. Of course, I have changed and grown in so many ways, but the core me (one might call it ‘soul’) has never changed. That’s why it is so weird to see our body aging when what’s inside the body is actually gaining new life more and more as we live. Does that make sense?

I do think about being the age of my parents and grandparents often because I am so connected to them. I often think how lonely it must be to be my grandparents’ age because there isn’t anyone a generation older to share that bond of “I know how you feel” with. My mom and dad can and I can bond over the fact that they know how it feels to be in their 30s with young children. But, grandma and grandpa don’t have anyone to share that bond with. It’s strange.

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58 Nina January 9, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Super article and I think it’s so true. As a child, I never pictured myself at any particular age, only doing particular things. I imagined myself with children and a husband living in a house, in an urban environment, with a small studio or art table to do my own art projects, with time to travel internationally. I think, in many ways, I modeled my life after my Grandmother, who is also an artist. I just wanted to do what she did, raise children and make art. She never traveled, but she traveled the world in her imagination with National Geographic.

My husband and I often talk about how we see ourselves when we’re much older. We talk about selling our big house after the kids grow up, moving into something small and living all over the world, skipping from place to place. There may be some slight changes, of course, but we like to talk about the future.

I think it’s great advice to imagine oneself in the future and have large goals. For me it’s been especially helpful finding older women to emulate, like my Grandmother. I feel so lucky to have her.

Thank you for this post. It’s a wonderful reminder to think for the future!

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59 Elizabeth January 9, 2014 at 3:24 pm

The best thing that ever happened to me was a Pilates class with an 80 year old woman. She was in incredible shape after 30 years of yoga and 15 of Pilates. You better believe I’ll be taking care of myself!

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60 KelliO January 9, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I’ve seen many a dancer teacher older than 60 performing better than myself. Very motivating!

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61 Emme January 9, 2014 at 3:29 pm

I rarely imagine MYSELF older, but I do notice that I do things with thought to the future. For example, when we just finished our basement I made sure one of the rooms could easily fit a king-sized bed and a crib…for when our kids come back to visit with their babies! I don’t know if we’ll stay here forever, but I constantly plan things AS IF that is where we’ll be, so I guess I have a vague idea about my future self! (I should mention that I don’t have any kids out of elementary yet, so this is VERY future planning!)

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62 Heather January 9, 2014 at 3:32 pm

This is so true. I got a little stuck in the 25 rut… I have a wonderful husband, career, and home. But now I’m almost 32 and thinking about kids, and it sure is a shocker! I still feel like I’m not ready, but I need to get a move on!

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63 KelliO January 9, 2014 at 3:35 pm

I’m so enjoying these comments!

Your comment above about Oscar/you/your mother just made me realize my parents will turn 59 this year. That snuck up on me! I think they both age very well, and my siblings and I are lucky as well. I distinctly remember being similarly shocked when I realized my brother was turning 30! Not a parent or mentor adult, but my sibling! My dad is one of the most energetic and playful grandpas I know. My husband’s parents are similarly very healthy and active for their age, and I know we want to follow that route. I’ve recently dwelt a lot on how my grandfather really is showing his age- 92- and yet has maintained his garden, computer, and home canning. I hope to follow that example!

I think I am the youngest employee on my team at work. I have definitely noted from others behaviors I want to keep and avoid, and it has motivated me to take the stairs much more! I don’t want to get stuck on that slippery slope losing health by being inactive. I have a few other “bucket list” items, too, but I still struggle to picture myself at any specific age.

P.S. I check the mirror everytime I’m in the restroom, but briefly. Lately I’ve checked windows and mirrors much more often to see my growing pregnant silhouette. Yesterday was a good day- I felt beautiful and thus spent a few extra seconds each time I saw my reflection. Today, like most days, the makeup must have worn off faster, so I’m not as interested.

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64 Design Mom January 10, 2014 at 10:50 am

Your pregnant silhouette comment in the P.S. reminded me that I too looked in the mirror more often when I was pregnant. It’s such a mind-blowing thing to see your body growing another human being.

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65 Colleen January 9, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I am 25 and I look much younger. Last time I was at an R-rated movie I got carded! I’m sure I will appreciate looking young someday but not yet! I have tried styling my hair and makeup differently but I think I have a young face, also I am average height but slim boned.

As a kid I always wanted to be 16 because it was the magical age of driving. I remember thinking it sounded so old!

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66 Anita Knapp January 9, 2014 at 4:22 pm

When I was in my 20s and oh-so-overwhelmed with little tykes, I invented my “45 List.” Everything that I thought I would like to/should be doing… but couldn’t right now… went on the list. I planned on doing it when I was 45. Now that I’m only a couple of years away from that, I’m pleased to see that I’ve already been able to work in a few of those things. I’ve already started a “50 List” and a “60 List” to look forward to.

Also, a wise woman once advise me to make a chart, with the names of my children across the top and the years down the side – starting this year and going on for 20 years, or even until the last child is 20. Then fill in the age each child is for each year. For any given year, I will know at a quick glance how old my kidlets will be, and how old – I mean young – I will be! It has made future planning (how long should we anticipate keeping this new car we are buying? How long do we have our whole family at home?) much easier, and much more real.

I love looking at how old my high school classmates look on Facebook. But I don’t look that old. I’m sure of it. :-)

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67 Design Mom January 10, 2014 at 10:54 am

Anita, I’m so intrigued by the chart you describe. I really want to make one and see if it affects how I approach future planning. Thank you for sharing!

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68 Tricia January 9, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Never really thought about it, but after reading this post I realized I never look at myself in the mirror anymore either. When I was younger I would preen for hours.

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69 Kelly January 9, 2014 at 5:48 pm

I often encourage my kids to do what their 80 year old self would do when making ‘Big’ decisions. I do the same with myself….I’m so wise at 80 : )

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70 Elizabeth January 9, 2014 at 6:20 pm

I was JUST thinking about the exact same thing. I’ve been really reflecting on what I had thought I would do with my life, and what I am doing. Maybe since I’m almost 40? One thing I did realize, though, goes along with what Tricia said in the comments above. The amount of time we spend looking at ourselves in the mirror in high school and college might imprint a mental image of ourselves. As we get busy and more confident post-college, we just don’t spend the kind of time and effort looking at our reflections, and so it is always a little bit shocking how the signs of time show up on our faces. It’s probably inevitable to be surprised by how our faces and bodies change. My husband’s 90 year old grandmother said the other say, “You know, every time I look in the mirror I just think, ‘Who is that old lady?’ I still feel like I’m much younger on the inside!”

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71 Megan M. January 9, 2014 at 6:34 pm

What an interesting question! When I was a child, I remember thinking of myself as a “grown-up” which didn’t have a specific age attached to it, but wouldn’t have been older than twenty-five.

I’m about to turn 30 on Monday, and I’ve only just recently started imagining myself as a “grandmother” – it randomly popped into my head one day that I would let my grandkids call me Nana, which struck me as funny.

I guess I don’t like to think of specifics, other than, “I wonder how I’ll feel when I turn ___?”

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72 Zoe - SlowMama January 9, 2014 at 7:37 pm

I think of myself as 60, 75, 85 a fair amount, come to think of it! But it’s easier to think of myself about 10-15 years older since that feels more tangible and I can better link the present to it. I’m not sure I ever thought much about being an older person, beyond just “being an adult” which was probably somewhere around my parents’ ages at the time. I remember one of my aunts marrying at 39 and we all thought she was SO OLD to be tying the knot. Sheesh.

Like you, I don’t tend to look in the mirror except for my morning and evening routines and these days, I’m noticing more signs of aging… lines and creases and slight sags where there used to be none. My mother says when she looks in the mirror she almost doesn’t recognize who’s staring back at her because she doesn’t feel any older than 35. Sometimes I wonder if one of the answers to aging happily is to get rid of our mirrors!

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73 Amy January 9, 2014 at 8:02 pm

I often think of myself older: I picture my kids’ high school graduation parties, I imagine talking to them in our living room when they’re in high school, I fantasize about grown kids in their own beds for Christmas mornings in their twenties, I imagine having grown children and grandchildren in our town or across the country. I imagine how I’ll feel in these scenarios, almost letting myself practice. One day my living room was a disaster, full of Legos and ribbons and puzzle pieces and I looked at it as though I was in my sixties, my children were grown, and I got to have them be young in my house again for one day. It changed the whole afternoon, made it so precious and lovely.

Once I read an article that said having needlepoint or knitting as a hobby helps you communicate with your high schoolers — you’re present, in the room with them, giving them your full mental attention, but your hands and eyes are just distracted enough to let them feel like they’re not being interrogated. So now my future self also makes needlepoint pillows.

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74 Alex January 9, 2014 at 8:23 pm

I love this! Needle pointing it is!

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75 Design Mom January 10, 2014 at 10:47 am

I love this, too! Seems like such good advice.

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76 megwrites January 9, 2014 at 8:04 pm

I’m thirty but almost always mistaken for much younger. Three days ago a new receptionist at my kids’ elementary school thought I was an elementary school student! It will be a definite change for me when I start looking my age.

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77 Sarah January 9, 2014 at 8:38 pm

I’ve thought quite a bit about my future self, mostly what I’ll be doing when I’m retired. I’m 29, ha! I’ve always expected myself as a wife (check), and mother (check), and I think when I retired I’ll take up growing orchids in my greenhouse and caring for a salt water fish tank. Active, healthy, happy is what I’m going for.

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78 Design Mom January 10, 2014 at 10:46 am

So inspiring to hear your clear and simple vision for your future, Sarah. I admire you!

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79 Alex January 9, 2014 at 9:11 pm

I am not sure if this makes sense, but I think I pictured certain things in my life: job, kids, husband, but I don’t think I pictured “my life” per se…if that makes sense…sometimes I do feel my life is more open to detours because I never had a grand plan or vision….maybe I should get one for the future, but sometimes I fear it might limit the wonderful unexpecteds.

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80 mom in mendon January 9, 2014 at 9:39 pm

I’m 69.

I didn’t “picture” my future self but I planned. I made a little list of how old I would be when I had each child–I wanted babies–and we stuck surprisingly close to the list.

But it seemed unwise to plan on too much of life. One had to move where the jobs were, accommodate one’s spouse, be prepared for health issues, etc. I mean, so many things are beyond our control that it seemed like it would be tempting fate to have definite expectations–even about my appearance.

But at a young age I knew–I knew–that we could keep on living in our later years. So today I still set goals and try things and learn and work–and I accept that I’ll be slower because, well, I’m 69. : )

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81 Katy January 9, 2014 at 10:00 pm

This is such an interesting topic for me to read, it’s fascinating how similar our experiences can be and yet how we are all surprised when they happen to us. How can something so universal be so surprising?

My mom used to always tell me that she didn’t feel like a “grown up” and I would laugh. Because clearly she wa SUCH a grown up. Now we actually live in the house I grew up in (recently bought it from my parents) and have cars, kids, dogs, the whole nine yards. By any kid standards we are totally grown ups but I rarely feel it. I don’t look in the mirror much and realized lately that when I imagined my future kids as a teenager/twenty something I never imagined them being older than two or three. It’s making the school years feel like rocky and uncharted territory.

One last thing – when I was a kid I also thought that dyeing grey hair was silly. That by the time you had any you were clearly old enough that you should accept aging gracefully. Now at 31 with lots of greys appearing I’m torn. I don’t want to let down my younger self but my vanity cannot stand those hairs. Getting older is so much different than it always seemed to be from the outside.

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82 Heather January 9, 2014 at 10:26 pm

I just had a baby girl last year, and I’ve found I look in the mirror more than ever -with her! She LOVES to look in the mirror. And while sometimes I’m horrified by how I look – tired, older, no make-up, just woke up, etc. I then see her beautiful smile and none of that matters. She just giggles and I giggle and make faces, and now we love looking in the mirror together.

And funny enough, this looking in the mirror with my daughter does relate to your future self comment – I also imagined a future self when I was young that I would someday be a mom, but I never knew what I would LOOK like as a mom. Now I see myself with my daughter and think – “I’m still me. Do I look like a mom now?”

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83 Design Mom January 10, 2014 at 10:46 am

Babies interacting with mirrors is heaven!

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84 Peggy January 9, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Ha!!……every day I look in the mirror and wonder who that old woman is!!?…..yes, I am quite a bit older than you are…..and sometimes I get scared as my mother seems to be looking back at me!…(:

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85 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay January 9, 2014 at 11:21 pm

I’ve been thinking a lot about aging lately. I’m 47.

My Grandma turns 98 this month. She is just now moving to a nursing home. Her eldest child is well into his 70′s and her youngest is 67. How amazing that they all have each other.

I became a mom late. My daughter came when I turned 36 and my son when I turned 40. My heart hurts (really, physically hurts) when I think that we may not have each other for that long. I would love to age and age with them.

My other thoughts on aging have been about feeling like I can’t believe I still have insecurities that I thought would be long gone. Or thinking of myself as the geeky girl who didn’t get picked first in gym class. THAT WAS OVER 30 YEARS AGO! They way we see ourselves can be fixed in time.

I have seen pictures of myself lately and thought “I’ve changed. I’m changing. I look so much older. Who is that?” It is a disconnected feeling.

I also feel like the same old me. In a good way.

Facebook has changed the way I see aging. I am connected to people I knew long ago. High School friends. They are aging. I see it. But it must mean they see it in me too.

It is all so odd.

My Grandma got in touch with her very first boyfriend in High School a few year ago. He would have been well suited for her. Intellectual, smart, interesting. She married the jock instead. They were well suited for each other in a different way. When Louis sent her a letter she responded like a school girl. She blushed. She pined for those years. Instant flashback to old feelings. Time travel to her younger self.

Right around the time my Grandma had her fall two months ago we got a letter from Louis’ son letting my Grandma know that Louis had just passed away. He found the letters from my Grandma to Louis in his desk. Two lifetimes flew by.

I see my hands changing. My other Grandma died at 94 this summer. I looked at her hands a lot growing up. We made a lot of soup together. I watched her hands work. They always looked old. I wonder if my kids will think my hands always looked old.

I do know that for 1/2 of last year that my son would announce with glee to anyone who would listen that his mom is 46 AND 1/2! He was very proud of my 1/2 and figured I would be too. Because he was 6 1/2.

My Grandpa (the jock) had dementia before he died. At the home he lived in the would announce my mom’s age to anyone who would listen. Loudly. In a bellowing voice. My mom didn’t appreciate it. But to my Grandpa it was a huge accomplishment. He outlived every family member he could think of. His parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and brothers all died early. He was overjoyed to still be alive.

And so it goes.

And yes- I can’t stand the worry lines between my eyebrows. People think I’m angry all of the time. I’m just aging.

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86 Design Mom January 10, 2014 at 10:45 am

I’ve read your comment twice, Pamela. I really enjoyed it. A couple years after my father died, my mother ran into her high school sweetheart. His wife had also died, and they started dating — and eventually married! (They even have prom pictures.)

I thought of this when you mentioned your Grandmother blushing.

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87 Autumn Duke January 9, 2014 at 11:53 pm

What an interesting concept! I wonder if the media has something to do with our inability to conceive of ourselves as anything older than a twenty-something–especially as women. I recently read an article about the unrealistic demands placed on actresses…and women in the limelight more generally. It discussed how it’s acceptable for men to get older–they have noticeable wrinkles, grey hair(s), etc which are deemed attractive. Women on the other hand are either not cast at all if they are older (leading men in their late 40s usually have a 20 year old counterpart) or, if they do land a gig, women are photo-shopped out of reality until they look like a caricature of themselves. Anyway, that’s a bit of a random tangent but I think maybe it contributes to that stranger effect you were talking about and how we can’t picture ourselves growing old.

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88 Design Mom January 10, 2014 at 10:42 am

I’ve read something similar, Autumn and find it very discouraging. I hope that trend can change. I loved seeing Sandra Bullock in Gravity — I hope her performance marks a new age!

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89 Ann January 10, 2014 at 7:05 am

I was just talking about aging and maturing with my son yesterday. He noticed that as he matures he has gotten quieter and listened more to other people as opposed to being the one always talking in conversation. I asked him why he thought that? He wasn’t sure, he thought it was just him entering “puberty”. I smiled. Then as I was laying in my bed watching tv, I noticed I was really enjoying this program about baby boomers and the channel is geared more for that demographic and I noticed that I am aging and enjoying more things that my parents enjoy!

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90 Jessie January 10, 2014 at 7:05 am

I think growing up with Grandparents helps you picture what life is like when you’re older. Parents have the opportunity to help their children in this manner by hangin’ out with older folks. :) Kids naturally hang with their peers if they aren’t raised to honor, respect and cherish the older generation. If grandparents aren’t available, like in my childhood, there are always older neighbors, or elderly members of your church, or even nursing homes! My parents adopted an elderly neighbor as our “grandparents.” We were also homeschooled, so we were always in multi-generational groups. I think it helps have a broader perspective on life!

I did not grow up with grandparents but my husband did. And boy, does he think of the future! He knew he wanted to be an engineer, so he went to college, graduated with a dual degree in record time, went on to get his masters, bought a house, proposed to me :), we got married, and now at 25 our lives look like most people’s at 30 or older. His foresight is a blessing.

As a side note, weren’t we just talking about technology and how the younger generation is way beyond the older? Kids may know their gadgets better than their grands, but they need to know and see the wisdom of age in order to have a proper respect. Honoring your elders gives a certain humility and so many benefits to a child.

Love this thought!

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91 Design Mom January 10, 2014 at 10:40 am

I really like this addition to the conversation, Jessie. I hadn’t really thought of that, but I can see how it would be true. I lived in the same town as one set of my Grandparents, but I can imagine if they had been neighbors or had lived in our home, they’re influence on me would have been even stronger.

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92 Sara January 10, 2014 at 7:08 am

Like you Gabrielle, I couldn’t picture myself past 25. I knew I wanted to be married and be a mom but beyond that, I wasn’t sure.

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93 Mariah January 10, 2014 at 10:31 am

This is such an intriguing topic! To be honest, I can only do about 4-5 years ahead of me. In fact, when I went to get married I was nearly paralyzed with fear thinking this was such a permanent decision. When I finally broke it down and told my then-fiancee I could do 4-5 years and see how it was going, I was fine! Of course we’ve been married 11+ years and I’m happy as a clam so I didn’t need an out, I just needed to think of it in shorter terms. Same goes with my 9 yr. old son. When he was a toddler, I could imagine him as far as kindergarten. But now that he’s in 4th grade, I can imagine him through middle school, but not much beyond that. It’s so weird but at the same time it takes some anxiety out of life for me.

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94 Elizabeth January 10, 2014 at 11:03 am

The first time I have truly imagined myself as an old woman was when I was picking out my engagement and wedding rings. I wanted something classic so I imagined something on hands like my grandmother’s.

This concept is so interesting. Thanks for sharing!

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95 teresa January 10, 2014 at 1:34 pm

I don’t think I ever pictured myself at a certain age….it was more about what it would be like to live in a certain year….for example when I was a youth I though the year 2000 would be full of amazing “tech” type adventures and seemed so far away and would I really live that long?…but here I am and I view myself youngest =) (silly 12 year old self}
I guess I always thought/think of what the year would bring not so much how I would age….maybe I should start =/
Like right now the year 2020 I have great plans for travel and art.
Happy Day

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96 Bethany January 11, 2014 at 8:16 pm

I am in serious denial about aging. It’s interesting what you bring up, because I was thinking the other day about the fact that I’ll eventually get older and I started to panic a little. I’m not sure why, I guess it is that idea that older me is still a stranger to current me. I have found that ages that used to seem old (like 40 or 50) do not seem old at all anymore.

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97 Summer January 13, 2014 at 11:14 am

When I was little, I thought up until age 30, and I only know that because I’d imagine my life in 2012. ;) I too imagined the stereotypical thing: meet a boy in college, get married, travel around for a few years, have a career, buy a house, have kids. What it was really like: I did go to college (and realize I’m still a child), travel around, finally found a job I like (though i wouldn’t call it a career), bought a house, and have a serious boyfriend and a dog, so… meh.

It was funny, however, when 2013 happened, and it occurred to me that I never dreamed of that ever happening. Like, time didn’t stop or anything. Oy! Now I think of myself as an old lady (starting at 65 and still in the workforce, which horrifies me, and then as a real old lady in my 80s).

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98 Summer January 13, 2014 at 11:20 am

Oh, and I remember the year 2020, because aside from sounding awesome, it would be the first year I’d be old enough to run for President. Haha! It was very important math to do in 1988.

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99 lisa thomson January 13, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Yes, I’ve tried to envision myself 20 years in the future. I started this as a child (around 10) and still do it. In fact, just the other day I was thinking about the ‘old lady’ I want to become. What kind of clothes I would wear, my attitude my routine. I wasn’t sure if that’s weird or not. I notice my aging only when I look back at photos (even recent ones) not so much looking in the mirror. I look in the mirror for hairs to pluck but don’t focus on wrinkles. LOL. I love the picture you took!

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100 caroline [the diy nurse] January 18, 2014 at 8:57 am

I thought this was just me! I remember thinking of myself being an adult at the age of 24. Now that I’m going on 27 I have to say there’s some panic. I feel like I should have my shit together by now. I guess from an outsiders point of view I do but with everything I want to accomplish… I feel like I’m running out of time. Maybe I need to do more picturing myself older and accept that I’m past 24! [but damn was 24 good lol]

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