When I was a child, I loved being with my elders. My Abeulos, my father’s parents, and my Grandma, my mother’s mother, were endlessly fascinating. They knew how to do things effortlessly that seemed impossible to me. My grandma, until she was about 75, raised all of her own livestock and grew all her own vegetables in her backyard in the valley just above North Hollywood. She would carry 50 pounds of feed for her chickens, rabbits, and goats, 2 miles in the middle of the summer heat. And I swear, my Abuelo could fix anything with just a paper clip, some duct tape and a couple of feet of rope.
They were my superheroes, and I wanted to know everything that they knew.
I also loved the way that they looked. Their skin was beautiful to me: the wrinkles told the story of their lives, the joy and the sorrow, the hard work that their bodies had done for them their whole lives. The strength in their muscles that they still possessed at an age when their bodies could have become weaker, but instead were utilized with skill and purpose.
These were my role models for aging, for growing older with strength and ability. It never occurred to me that it was a bad thing to grow older, and now that I live in a world and work in a business that is bent on telling people–especially women–that they are no longer vital once they start to show signs of “aging.” It makes me sick to my stomach! I am horrified by how deeply these ideas have permeated in our culture, and I worry about the young women who are being influenced by this nonsense.
And the point I’m making is not about keeping up your youthful appearance. This is not about beauty and aesthetics of what we look like. I want you to FEEL young. I want you to FEEL strong.
It breaks my heart and frustrates me to no end that our society values youth over experience. How silly is that when it is physically impossible to stay young? And when experience gives us wisdom we could not possibly have had as kids? Our bodies age every single day that we are lucky enough to be alive. The alternative to not aging is as grim as it gets, because if you’re not getting older it means that you are dead. Taking good care of yourself is a wonderful way to slow down the rate at which your body ages, because at some point, how old your body feels is not a question of years, but a tally of habits and choices and chance. But no matter how much we exercise and how much we moisturize, it is the law of nature and the journey of being human that our bodies are aging and changing every single day.
Instead of obsessing over staying young forever, isn’t it better to want things that we can have, to aim our energies at achieving results that are actually achievable? The truth is that the best possible result of our fitness and nutrition work is that we can age gracefully, by which I mean, healthfully.
Who wants to be young forever? I’d rather get to live long and thrive throughout my life. And I want to live in a body that I love and respect because it is the body that gives me the ability to lead that life.
This summer, I celebrated my 41st birthday. I’m happy to state my age because getting older is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I’ve taken better care of myself in the last fifteen years than I did in the first twenty six years of my life, and I feel better and stronger and more capable now than I did when I was twenty years old.
A lot of us fear aging—the idea of getting older, being less mobile, having less energy, and being less of ourselves. But I look at aging like this: Getting older is a blessing and a privilege, and if you lay the foundation for a healthy life in your younger years, your older years may very well be some of the best of your life.
— Cameron Diaz
Photo: Barnes and Noble Book signing; SELF Magazine on stands now