It’s my birthday today.

When I tell people how old I am, the response I usually get is, “you don’t look that old” or “you don’t look a day over…” and these used to produce feelings of delight. I appreciate looking younger, not having too many wrinkles or white hairs (still few enough that I can pluck them although I don’t expect that to last much longer). I remember when I was in my 20s, I’d get a lot of “you look like a teenager” comments so I joke that I paid my dues to enjoy the benefits of looking younger now.

With this year of turning 49, which means the big 5-0 is approaching fast, my feelings about aging are shifting. What’s wrong with looking older? What’s wrong with wrinkles? If we removed the societal belief that women primarily get their value from youth and beauty, wrong with being a mature woman? Several of my friends have turned 50 recently and each one has shared how amazing it is to finally stop giving a shit about what other people think and stepping fully into themselves. I see them as beautiful, powerful women who love themselves. I imagine that is what 50 will feel like for me too ever since I started the journey back home to myself.

Not too long ago, a friend of mine hired me to take her portrait. She wanted to push herself to her edge with these portraits―to fully step into her divine, her quiet power as she defined it, and as a woman who had nothing to prove and no one to please. When we did her reveal so that we could process the portraits together, her response was discomfort and she commented “I look so old! Do I look old to you?” As with all of my portrait sessions, I see the discomfort as a valuable opportunity for self-reflection. We looked closer at her pictures and after asking her some questions, she told me it reminded her of “a wise old sage.” She admitted that she didn’t physically look old. She had no wrinkles or white hair but responded to something else that she saw deeply reflected in the presence and energy of her portrait. The woman she connected to wasn’t her physical self but instead the unapologetic, powerful woman within―the wise sage she will eventually grow old to be. My friend continued to revisit her portraits and eventually grew to see their power and value.

A wise sage is a woman whose wisdom is gained from a lifetime of experiences and self-reflection. A woman of any age can be wise but there’s something about the archetype of the wise old sage that feels especially relevant to our experience of aging because as we age, our attachment to youth and beauty (or failure to meet those standards) start falling away. As that happens, we have no choice but to focus within, into our inner selves. Through this process, our inner selves begin matching our outer ones until our inner lives and our outer lives merge into one indistinguishable whole. The wise old sage that was reflected in my friend’s portrait is the woman who already exists inside of all of us. She is the woman waiting to meet us, the woman we are all growing old to be, a woman whose lifetime of experiences has taught her to value herself and her life on the things that matter. She values who she is within, knowing that love and acceptance starts with her and that all the other things can just fall away. 

She is there, living inside all of us. And I, for one, am looking forward to meeting her.

In honor of my 49th birthday, I wrote a poem to reflect on what this age feels like to me. 


49 is the age of feeling present in my body,
to feeling comfortable in my own skin,
to no longer looking to others for permission
to fully occupy the space that I live in

49 is surrendering to what is
and taking ownership of all that I am,
of the past and present
and the inability to no longer be dishonest with myself

49 is feeling gratitude for the ability
to finally feel EVERYTHING,
to recognize the privilege of being alive
and no longer questioning why

49 is letting go of expectations
to flow through life embracing all that she brings
from the brutality of pain to the ecstasy of joy
and embracing the complexity of holding everything at once

49 is seeing the value of my space and being
and of recognizing my inherent power
to lean into the abundance of love and joy
and the infinite beauty that surrounds us

49 is coming back home to my essential self,
ending the battle of what should be,
to trust instead in the fluidity of everything that I experience
and everything that I am

This is from a personal journal writing shared in the newsletter and typically not shared on the blog. To read these, subscribe to the “I Matter” newsletter below.