Life Expectancy

birthday cake

Just twenty years before my Grandma Ross was born, the average life expectancy for a woman in the United States was 45 years.  Coming across this bit of trivia this morning—this day of my forty-fifth birthday—makes complaining about getting older seem ridiculous and downright ungrateful.

Statistically speaking, there’s a good chance that I’ll have at least another thirty-five years or so on this amazing planet, and that’s something that women in their forties couldn’t say in 1879.  Seriously, I could spend this birthday pining for the days when my hair was more brown than gray, or for a time when I could fit into size seven jeans, but I’m thinking that since this is the beginning of those extra years that modern life has potentially granted me, I ought not to squander this day on pining.  Instead I’ll make a list of positive things about turning forty-five:

  • My hair started turning gray about ten years ago and I’ve spent a lot of the past decade self-consciously feeling older than I am.  But now that I’m in my mid-forties, a few of my same-age friends are beginning to sprout a few gray hairs of their own, and while I wish I didn’t care about such trivial things, there is something nice about no longer being alone in this particular category.
  • I will never make it into one of those 45-Brilliant-Writers-Under-45 anthologies, so that’s one less thing I need to worry about.
  • When I was thirty-five and my hair was turning gray and my children were ten and seven years old, I sometimes questioned my decision to have children before establishing a career or traveling the world.  Now that I’m 45 and my children are nearly grown, I can see the advantages of having had kids early in life.  If I am indeed granted an extra thirty-five years or so, then I’ll get to enjoy my children as adults for a much longer time than if I had waited to have them.  And after I get done paying off the debt I’ve accrued in raising them, I may still have time to travel the world.
  • My life so far has been divided into lots of parts, but the most defining of them have been 1) my own childhood and 2) the raising of my children.  Right now I’m on the cusp of the Next Big Part and it’s exciting to consider the possibilities.
  • At forty-five I’ve already done so many of the things I’d hoped to do when I was just starting out.  Now I have this distinct feeling that the future is less about serving my own needs and more about finding a way to be of service to others, it’s humbling and hopeful all at the same time.
  • And on a lighter note, hitting the quintessential birthday that marks the potential halfway point of life left me feeling completely justified in buying myself a new pair of gorgeous leather boots, and in that way turning forty-five hasn’t been all that different from turning twenty.

4 thoughts on “Life Expectancy”

  1. Teresa, I discovered when my hair began turning in my forties, it was due to my Scottish and Irish genes. Men and women in both cultures have silver hair at an early age. We were in Indonesia at the time, at Jarkarta International School, and most all of the Scotts and Irish had silver hair to one degree or other. It was one of my fellow colleagues who said, “You must have Scottish or Irish heritage.” And sure enough I do. Do you?

  2. I Have manufactured my own hypothesis to explain the lack of melanocytes to produce the melanin for ones hair to pigment.
    And it it this:
    All the hair follicles are connected to key important brain synaptic connections. Every time a new concepts, or truth is discovered, or you learn that new word you were looking for to describe how you are feeling, it tells the cells that keep your hair colored to show to the world your lack of comprehension is no longer a true status, and, is rewarded with retirement.
    And as your collection of non pigmented hair accumulates, it is an advertisement to the rest of us your investment of time and energy to create these connections is a benefit to us.
    Thank you for your writing.

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