Social media trends can be wonderful, like the ice bucket challenge for ALS, or dangerous, like the recent BirdBox challenge that saw a Utah teenager drive blindfolded and (no surprise) get into a wreck. The latest trend I’ve seen on Facebook is to post your first profile picture side-by-side with your current photo under the guise, “How hard did aging hit you?”
That question really rubs me the wrong way. The idea is that, for many of us, we’ve been on Facebook for a decade, and that’s a decent amount of time. Was it designed for me to feel bad about how I look now compared to the past? To elicit compliments from friends?Who knows.
I thought maybe I wasn’t getting it, so I decided to take the “challenge.”
The first profile picture of me is a photo with my daughter, right before she turned six. I juxtaposed it with a recent photo of me and my girl.
As I looked at the side-by-side, I cringed, worried that the toll that time has taken would be ugly.
Instead, I was overwhelmed with emotions, but none of them related to shame or sadness about my appearance.
The overriding feeling was gratitude. I am grateful to be here, and capable of playing a silly social media game. Thoughts of the friends and family members I’ve lost over the past decade flooded in, and I wish they were still here, too.
Seeing my daughter’s growth makes me feel ridiculously lucky to be her mother.
I know that I’m fortunate to have had a front row seat to her ridiculously normal physical, social, and emotional development over the past ten years. For her health and safety, I am beyond grateful. While I am struck by the many changes that came with adolescence, I remain delighted by her sparkling blue eyes and bright smile. Neither of those have changed a bit.
Seeing myself in the old photo was a bit odd. Ten years ago, I was a single parent and living in a different location. I couldn’t help but reflect on how very different my life is now. My heart swelled with appreciation for my loving husband and the cozy home we’ve made together.
This past decade may have brought crow’s feet and an additional chin, it’s true. It also presented its fair share of challenges and sadness. But it’s also been full of exciting adventures, lots of laughter, and an overwhelming amount of love.
I wanted to go back in time and tell that woman that she’s stronger than she knows, and that she’s going to grow in ways she never imagined.
She’s going to be not just okay, but also so much more fulfilled than she is in that moment. I’d tell her that there’s a number of things she said she’d never do that will not only happen, they’ll bring joy. I’d tell her that aging is not easy but it is liberating. Embrace it, don’t fear it.
The older you get, the more comfortable you become with yourself and the less you care about the opinions of others. You gain the ability to reject silly social media challenges designed to make you feel bad about yourself and instead flip the script to appreciate just how far you’ve come.
Betty Friedan phrased it perfectly when she said, “Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”
I want to tell whoever created this latest challenge that aging didn’t “hit” me. The effects of time may be evident on my appearance, of course. Just as my body has shifted in the past decade, so has my perspective. The lessons learned, perspective gained, and heart filled have been worth every single wrinkle, extra pound and gray hair.
Shannan lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and teen daughter. She's a recovery attorney who now blogs at BetweenUsParents.com, ChicagoNow, and as part of the Chicago Parent Blogger Network. Her writing has appeared on the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, Scary Mommy, BonBon Break, Brain Child and In the Powder Room, and her essays have been included in two anthologies by The HerStories Project. She is also freelance writer for regional magazines. Shannan was in the 2013 cast of Listen to Your Mother, despite the fact that her daughter often fails to do so.