All human life is finite, but aging can be hard to come to terms with when you’re not facing it head on. For some, maybe an internal peace settles in the body in its own time. Others may learn acceptance through anticipation of watching their loved ones pass. Several influential writers have all tapped into the wisdom, stillness and inevitability of aging and have shared valuable insights on the aging process through their work.
“Today I am 65 years old. I still look good. I appreciate and enjoy my age. A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it. You still bring to bear all your prior experience, but you are riding on another level. It’s completely liberating.”
– Nikki Giovanni
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
– Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
“Maybe this is what growing old was like, she thought. Maybe the world gets smaller and smaller until there’s nothing but the walls around you to show you where you end and the rest of the world begins.”
– Naomi Jackson, The Star Side of Bird Hill
“But if a role model in her seventies isn’t layered with contradictions – as we all come to be – then what good is she? Why bother to cut the silhouette of another’s existence and place it against our own if it isn’t as incongruous, ambiguous, inconsistent and paradoxical as our own lives are?”
– Molly Peacock, The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72
“Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns to be amused rather than shocked.”
– Pearl S. Buck, China: Past and Present
“If you happen to be white in a white country; pretty according to the dictates of fashion; rich in a country where money is adored, it’s almost impossible to grow up and to grow up honest inside. It is almost impossible. Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging. But to grow up, to take responsibility for the time you take up, and the space you occupy, to honor every living person for his or her humanity, that is to grow up.”
– Maya Angelou
“A doctor to whom I occasionally talk suggests that I have made an inadequate adjustment to aging.
Wrong, I want to say.
In fact I have made no adjustment whatsoever to aging.
In fact I had lived my entire life to date without seriously believing that I would age.”
– Joan Didion, Blue Nights
“There’s nothing inside that’s 81. It’s just the changes in the body. And the memory. I don’t remember where the keys are. Or as my son says, ‘Ma, it’s not that you don’t remember where you put the keys, it’s when you pick up your keys and you don’t know what they’re for.’ Thank you, son.”
– Toni Morrison
“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
“The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.”
– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray