MOVING THROUGH MILESTONES Learn to embrace your next adventure.
Approaching the Big 3-0, 4-0, 5-0 – or any multiple of 10 for that matter – can hail a great party but also send us into a tailspin as we re ect on our life so far. So how can we move gracefully into a new age and stage?
W hile some may claim to be 21 year after year, the truth is that you only reach that magical milestone once. Each signi cant marker along the adulthood journey beyond that brings the opportunity for more responsibilities, wisdom, challenges, stories… and grey hairs.
Being blessed with another birthday might be cause, of course, for a big celebration. For some, the passage of time is a gift in and of itself. For others, that simply isn’t the case. Fear and anxiety around ageing rmly takes hold and there’s a sense of denial about which decade or drop-down box you now nd yourself in. When a milestone is approaching, these good or bad vibes can easily be exacerbated.
Whether you’re happily heading towards it or hiding your head in the sand will come down, in part, to what you focus on as you take stock. The bigger the birthday, the more likely you are to contemplate how well life is progressing along the path you envisaged – or not. While a milestone birthday can carry greater prestige, it has the potential to stir up greater
pressure and panic if nothing’s gone to plan. During the 1980s, social psychologists Costa and McCrae found in their studies of personality across the lifespan that young adults expressing the most discontent were the most likely candidates to experience a ‘midlife crisis’ years later in their 40s. In particular, those who had more neurotic personality types struggled to adapt as well to challenges in midlife and beyond.
Today, the crisis of age appears to have crept even closer, with research earlier this year revealing that approximately six out of 10 millennials experience a soul-searching and seriously stressful quarter-life crisis. At its core, this kind of struggle relates to di culty coping with personal, nancial and/or workrelated pressures. Those in their 20s and 30s are more commonly questioning their place in the world and, upon inwardly evaluating their existence, have external expectations and the tick-tock of ageing to contend with on top. While it can indeed be a challenging time, this is also seen as a de ning decade of self-awareness, curiosity and personal growth.
To age is not only a biological process, but something deeply re ective of a culture, too. Di erent cultures have their own distinct practices and attitudes towards ageing that can shape the experience and expectations of reaching each and every milestone.
In Western cultures, where youth is especially revered, ageing can be considered a negative, shameful and potentially distressing experience for some. This fear of ageing is driven by a sense of losing value, independence, and eventually, losing touch. When analysing the World Values Survey – completed by over 83,000 respondents in 57 countries
– the World Health Organisation found such negative attitudes towards ageing are widespread: 60% of respondents felt older people were not respected, with the lowest levels of respect being reported among higherincome countries.
Findings like this reiterate that, both internally and externally, there’s more work to be done when it comes to ageing well and supporting one another through the many milestones of life. Growing older has certain challenges, but there are also incredible gains to be made and lessons to be learned as time goes by.
At every stage of life, we’re invited to deepen our maturity, broaden our minds and open our hearts more fully. To understand more about moving through milestones, we spoke to women at di erent stages about growing up gracefully and their journey to date.