My friend David says, “you don’t necessarily get wiser with age, but you have more data.” You see that just because the adrenaline-drunk 24-hour news cycle makes it sound like apocalypse is upon us, it doesn’t mean that it is. You learn this over the years. I live in South Korea an hour from the demilitarized zone. My parents were born 3 years after the the Korean War was halted. For half a century, my people were told almost daily that the North will attack again. They might. On some days, they do.
But today, they didn’t. So we go to work and pick up the trash and read celebrity gossip and fry fish cakes.
If you are a young female, conventional wisdom drills into your head the idea that there are very few acceptable ways for you to exist in the world as a woman. The older you get, the more evidence you collect that this is bullshit. Accepting this truth always feels a little bit iffy. With more time, it begins to feel less iffy. So you carry on with your self — single or attached, thin or fat, big-bottomed or big-bellied, empowered or meek, maternal or child-free — taking up space in the world knowing that you were put on earth to do just that.
There are a few things in life that are so painful that, while they are happening, you are thoroughly convinced that you will not survive. And then, despite yourself, you do. Not too long after, you might even find yourself thriving again. Rinse and repeat, and you find yourself a little bit — just a little bit — less impressed with your own drama. I think the biggest grace of my life is being able to tell myself in the most excruciating moments, “well fuck me, I know this will pass, but goddamnit can it pass sooner?”
You have a lot of convictions as a youngster. Black and white ideas about what is good and bad, how people should make decisions, what is valuable and what is not. The great equalizer is that life knocks everyone around with pretty much equal vigor. With age, wise people go through an amicable divorce with certainty. This is a great gift to have, and even a greater gift to be around.