What made you emerge?
August 31, 2010 6:36 AM   Subscribe

Slightly older mefites: What is one thing about life that you get satisfaction out of now that you would not have appreciated in your early to mid 20s?

Another way to ask this would be "what is something that made you enjoy growing into adulthood, rather than wondering, "is this it?" I'm keeping the question broad as I would like varied answers. I imagine for many people it would be "raising a family" but it could also be as simple as a hobby or learning something new that you might have been too impatient for when you were younger. I'd like to hear from anyone from their late 20s all the way to 100 or beyond.
posted by the foreground to Grab Bag (76 answers total) 126 users marked this as a favorite
My kids
posted by the noob at 6:43 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

having the money to go to a nice dinner (as opposed to having the nice dinner even though I had no money).
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:48 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Being taken seriously at work, instead of having my views dismissed.
posted by LN at 6:48 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

Less manic focus on relationships. I found that once I hit the closing years of my twenties they ceased to be the focus of everything and were more background sound. Though I suspect that kids will replace them at some point soon - I'm almost 31 now, and most of my friends are starting to push the next generation into production.
posted by StephenF at 6:49 AM on August 31, 2010

"...I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."


This question feels borderline chatfiltery, but I'm no mod.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:50 AM on August 31, 2010 [34 favorites]

Being outside (I fell in love with hiking rather late, and nothing beats getting my hands dirty planting/tending a veggie patch).

Also silence (I used to feel compelled to fill it with music/chatter).
posted by headnsouth at 6:50 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

Late 20s here. I used to sleep til noon on weekends, but these days, I really love getting up early and savoring the mornings.

Also: great coffee, sore muscles after a hard workout, and drama-free relationships with friends and lovers.
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:52 AM on August 31, 2010 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Going home early and waking up hangover-free.
posted by something something at 6:57 AM on August 31, 2010 [12 favorites]

Best answer: 43 YO here. Peace and quiet. Also I have two young sons, and enjoy addressing young boys as "Chief", "Champ", "Tiger" or "Slugger" with complete authenticity.
posted by Scoo at 7:04 AM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]

I'm 30 and not much as changed.
Although, now the debts I owed in my early 20s are finally falling off my credit report.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:04 AM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: I am well beyond what most folks here will answer to for age--I am 81--but I so love my family now that two boys are middle age and one, just starting out after college and overseas, and with a daughter in her final high school year--well, they mean so much to me that I can but reflect back to my own mom and pop and brothers when I was a kid and wish I could appreciate them as I do my own "new" family. Mom, Pop, brothers all gone and I have but memories; but when we are very young we are self centered and they (our family) are a bit like furniture: nice and useful to have around but to be taken for granted. Not so I discover now, so many years later.
posted by Postroad at 7:05 AM on August 31, 2010 [79 favorites]

Making something. I have my job, and I have my love, and I get to work on the latter with the love of my life and my best friend.

I spend a lot of time beat as hell, but I *make something* and it's awesome.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:06 AM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: I'm 41.

Self-confidence; a deep comfort in my knowledge that I've attained mastery in certain areas, competence in others.

Rest. Not 'sleeping in' - that was something different, more about sleeping off a manic exhaustion - but treasuring downtime with nothing pressing to do. Not feeling as though I need to be proving something or accumulating experience every minute. I treasure unstructured time.

Family - not kids which I don't have, but sibs, cousins, and parents. In my early 20s I was pretty focused on getting out and away, seeing my family only on holidays, etc. These days I prioritize chances to be with my family, especially my parents. As you see your older relatives and the parents of friends pass away, you realize how very irreplaceable your own family time is, and if you have a good relationship with your relatives you want to spend more time enjoying it.

Increased financial security.

Perspective on life and time. Freedom from wondering "OMG am I gonna have an awesome life or a sucky one? What if I accidentally do the wrong thing and end up with a sucky life?" Now I know the answer: awesome. The panic and anxiety that makes every choice seem like an all-determining one is gone.
posted by Miko at 7:08 AM on August 31, 2010 [22 favorites]

Best answer: My drama-free, easy, rewarding, fulfilling relationship with my husband of 13 years.
posted by MorningPerson at 7:10 AM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm 39. I love the understanding that the journey is the fun part, not the destination. See here.
posted by jbickers at 7:10 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: That sex becomes less of a constant, compulsive, angst-causing problem and more of a real joy. One realises that (speaking as a male here) one doesn't really get sex when young, whether actually getting it or not.
posted by Decani at 7:11 AM on August 31, 2010 [11 favorites]

Mustard. Coffee.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:11 AM on August 31, 2010

Oh, btw, I'm 51.
posted by Decani at 7:12 AM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: Routine. I think I appreciate this more now because there's just so much more to keep track of and stay on top of--schedules and needs of 3 other family members, pets, house, job, hobbies, social commitments--you can't just randomly toss all those balls around and hope to keep them in the air. You need a solid juggling pattern, and if you pull one of those balls out (or add a new one in), it's a real struggle to rearrange everything. I fall apart at the start of summer break each year because of the way it disrupts my routine. Being able to do the same thing, day in and day out, week after week, is pure bliss.

And for god's sake, visiting (now just) my mom.
posted by drlith at 7:14 AM on August 31, 2010

I agree with the sex thing. It really does get better with age.

That and bed. There is nothing finer on the planet than having the perfect bed.
posted by TLCplz at 7:14 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

Time on my own, time spent doing things for myself, me-time.

In my twenties time alone was time spent waiting to socialize, and didn't feel as full as time spent with others. Now I treasure time alone, really treasure it.
posted by Ahab at 7:19 AM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: I remember being in history class in school and thinking "This is so stupid. Why would anyone ever want to know this?" and now, at age 40, I can't read enough history, be it world history or family history, and it frustrates me that I'm so ignorant about everything that happened before I was born.

I really appreciate having stable, relatively drama-free relationships and no longer hanging out with people who use me or don't treat me with respect. When I was 20 I was just happy to have someone to hang out with, I generally didn't care how they treated me.

Time off. Back then I wasn't happy unless I was doing something. Now I appreciate time on a Sunday afternoon where I can choose to read, relax, or clean the garage.
posted by bondcliff at 7:20 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

I used to look at older guys wearing sandals with black socks or hats with ear flaps or singing badly in public or something ridiculous like that and think "I wonder if he knows how stupid he looks. I hope I never wear/do anything that embarrassing." Now one of the best things about getting older is that I absolutely 100% do not give a flying fuck what someone I don't know thinks of me. I don't want strangers to think I am hip or cool or fashionable or anything. I simply do not care what they think. I want to be happy and comfortable and have fun and if that means an army of strangers think I am the biggest loser in the world then I could not give less of a shit. Call it confidence or apathy or self-esteem or giving up, but it is so much better than the constant worry about what people thought of me I felt when I was younger. Now to put on my Starfleet shirt, hop in my car, roll my windows down and blast Neil Diamond.
posted by ND¢ at 7:20 AM on August 31, 2010 [82 favorites]

Best answer: Enjoying a glass of wine on my sofa on a Friday night while I page through magazines rather than coming home from work and reprimping in order to go out at 10pm and subsequently sleeping through most of Saturday.

I'll be 38 shortly.
posted by ladygypsy at 7:21 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Not feeling like I have to apologize for or hide my quirks or opinions or tastes. When I was in my 20s, I felt like I had to go along with what everybody else did or liked so that I would be accepted. Now I don't care if they like me or not, I'm gonna blast me some Top 40 Country Hits! and sing 'em loud and proud, and haters be damned. It's so relaxing not caring what the neighbors think. :-)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:21 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

A sharper understanding of what is and what is not important. Having a kid -- the kid is wonderful -- fall-out from having kid = ability to dismiss much more trivia as the trivia it really is.

Also, spazzing out, as per ND¢'s explanation. An end to embarrassment was a great relief.
posted by kmennie at 7:26 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I went to college far from home and when my parents would visit, I couldn't wait for them to leave so I could go out. They are getting older now and I am so ashamed of how quickly I used to usher them to the door. Now that I'm older and a parent myself, I really appreciate their advice and wisdom and love for me, my husband, and my children. You don't appreciate your parents when you're young the way you should.
posted by compwalla at 7:31 AM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]

When I was 45, I met the man I'm spending the rest of my life with. (I'm nearly 50 now.) While I often wish we could have met a few decades ago, the truth is that if we had, we probably never would have even dated. We would have each written the other off as "nice, but nothing in common."

I agree that sex improves with age.

Things I once hated but now love: early mornings, being in the desert, turquoise jewelry, and The Golden Girls.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:31 AM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Working out regularly and eating lots of vegetables and protein - and doing so because I like the way they make me feel, not because I'm trying to lose weight.

Making dinner from scratch.

Setting long-term goals, making plans, and working towards them.

Going window shopping and returning home empty-handed.

Not worrying about trends, conspicuous consumption, or having a glamorous and exciting social life.

Putting in real effort at things I'm not great at - and improving.

Consciously letting go of pet peeves and refraining from extended bitch sessions.

Well-made clothes that fit.

Recognizing the good in people.

Being aware - but not ashamed - of my flaws.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:32 AM on August 31, 2010 [14 favorites]

Best answer: You start to appreciate your parents as real people.

You learn to appreciate things about yourself, like how stupid and immature you were back in your teens and 20s when you thought you were just so awesome and had it all figured out. At the same time you appreciate the good points about yourself that you didn't even see back then, that may have been clear to those around you. And you realize that younger you would never, in a million billion years, have ever seen or believed these things, even if you went back in time and told yourself.
posted by fleacircus at 7:33 AM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]

Oh, and now I really appreciate the taste of a good alcoholic beverage. Give me an hour to enjoy a glass of single malt over 6 Jack and Cokes, or nurse a pint of Guinness rather than chug eight cans of Budweiser.
posted by bondcliff at 7:36 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm 30.

Exercising. And my siblings.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:38 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 43.

Historical perspective. When some piece of political or cultural chicanery comes along, you remember having seen it in a different context before.

Also, a shift in the balance of power between you and your parents.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:38 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The early morning.

In my mis-spent youth I could never have imagined enjoying being awake at 6:00 AM unless I was still up from the night before. But the world is lovely early in the morning. And walking around a city that is not home in the early morning is a special pleasure. All us geezers greet each other happily as we enjoy the quiet, hopeful mornings.

And as said above the sex is better and it is great not to care so much about what others think. Being middle-aged is a lot better than I could have imagined in my twenties.
posted by readery at 7:40 AM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I can go to a candy store, fill up a huge bag of loose candy - whatever kind of candy I want - and buy it, and not have to worry about how much it costs, because unless it's a fairly big-ticket item, I know it's fine. Then I can go home and choose what I want to watch while I eat this candy: it might be a slasher flick, or a comedy, or who knows. Whatever I want. I can watch it with the Netflix disc on my PS3 and giant television that I paid for myself and no one tells me I have to let them watch America's Next Top Model.

Being an adult means that you now have the wisdom to realize that you shouldn't eat all that candy at once, because you'll get a horrible stomachache. Being an adult means understanding that even though no one will tell you when it's bedtime, you need to be responsible for it yourself so that you can go to work and sustain the income which allows you to take advantage of your incredible freedom.

It means that doing the dishes isn't a chore anymore - it's something I do because I am proud of my little home and I want it to smell nice.

Growing up means understanding all the amazing things you can do.

Being an adult means understanding that the fact that you can do any of these things doesn't mean you should do all of them.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:44 AM on August 31, 2010 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Realizing that I had fully transitioned from pretending not to give a fuck what people think about me to TRULY not giving a fuck what people think about me.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:45 AM on August 31, 2010 [17 favorites]

Best answer: Being average. Young people seem to think you have to do or be or make something fantastic to be happy in life. I'm discovering that just being content with where I am, without the perks of riches or fame or creative genius or a dream job, is actually a pretty good goal. Try explaining that to kids who've gone through 12+ years of being told they have to achieve to feel good. Mediocrity is...surprisingly pleasant.
posted by Ys at 7:45 AM on August 31, 2010 [26 favorites]

I don't have a good way to describe this but it's been on my mind a ton lately, what I love about transitioning out of the 20s (I'm 28). The past year or so I've felt a world of difference, and I get it now when my older lady friends used to allude to how glad they were to be in their 30s, to have left the 20s behind. A lot of it has to do with self-realization, not the material or secure goods sorts of things (I still don't own a house and right now am really not looking forward to ever owning one, to be honest, and I still think a lot of "upscale" grown up versions of things are bo-ring) but emotional development and being way more comfortable in one's skin. You know much better who you are and what really matters to you and what you don't want to put up with thanks to the wild, varied, and hairy experiences of your youth. With that knowledge comes trust in one's inner reflections and a consequent sense of calm, quiet self-assurance. I've said it elsewhere on Mefi, but it's new enough to still be head-shakingly funny to me that when I was younger I seemingly had more keys to the social kingdom--I was more conventionally sexy and doing more ambitious things--but was so stressed out, unsure of myself, and riddled with body hatred and anxiety trying to "keep up" with everyone else appearance and status-wise I couldn't enjoy it. I also didn't have a sense of home, that I belonged anywhere or with anyone--I didn't have a sense of family. That's the sucky part of the transitional 20s...I also endured relationships and romantic/sexual interactions that it galls me I put myself through, because I didn't know any better yet, and didn't trust myself or think I mattered enough. I see younger lady friends do this all the time, and remember my older ones warned me warily once too, but maybe you just have to go through it yourself. I'm glad it's over.

I'm frumpier and less on-paper successful in some ways now, but I'm in a relationship I couldn't have dreamed up if I'd tried back then, I know where I belong, I have a sense of my life's worth and room in my head and heart now to honor my feelings and the day just for what it is. It's so hard to describe these things without sounding nutty or self help book-y or whatever. And most importantly, so do my peers because they've gotten older too. All of us are more emotionally generous, gentler, calmer, more reasonable, less self-absorbed people as we've grown up and gotten comfortable with ourselves. No need to impress or front anymore. That ease and the way it frees your life up for what actually matters--it's worth gold. I look back and feel like it's crazy how much energy and time gets wasted in pretense and neuroses in the early 20s, and am relieved to be moving on.
posted by ifjuly at 7:46 AM on August 31, 2010 [8 favorites]

Oh, and also, I was reminded of this by the Metafilter thread about that Fred guy and his videos on Nickelodeon.

Eventually, as you grow and you start to see the cyclic pattern of damn near everything, you will realize two things:

1. That each successive generation will be very unlike the one before it, which you probably already knew, but that
2. That they are different does not mean the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Really. Once you start to see that, it's a big load off your mind. You no longer fret about the future - you start to see that (at least in this specific way) the world is working as it should.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:47 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Finally realizing that the most valuable thing in life really is your relationships with family and friends.
posted by ericb at 8:00 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't know if I count as 'older' (early 30's) but I was thinking the other day that I get a huge amount of satisfaction now from making things on my own, things that really you could just go out and buy at the store, but they wouldn't be the same. So I make my own ice cream out of the wild strawberries in the backyard, ratatouille out of eggplants zucchini and tomatoes from the garden, grind my own garam masala out of whole spices, etc. When I first lived on my own I would just boil some pasta and dump a can of mushroom soup on it.
posted by Gortuk at 8:13 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

Late 40's here. I am so glad that I reached a point where I just don't care what I look like, what I wear, what I do, etc. I love spending time doing absurd things with my kids and my brothers and their kids. I would not have gotten that in my 20's. So what if I am singing too loudly to the radio while my kids and their friends wince? So what if I wear that Hawaiian shirt to the school play? So what if Mrs. Smith doesn't think I should let my kids go to the field by themselves?

I guess what I am trying to say is that I appreciate the ability and right to make my own decisions and live with the consequences.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:13 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Several people have mentioned how age has helped them care less passionately about how others perceive them. As a corollary, I find myself caring less about how others present themselves. Getting older has helped me discover a sort of compassion and ease with others' personal choices and means of expression.

Once, I derived more of my sense of self by rejecting what others did, mostly through snarky mockery and attempting to pigeon-hole people through easy labels. Many people find labeling someone to be an act of power, as if by placing them in a group we can more easily belittle their choices.

In some ways, I'm still rather intolerant. I have no time for narcissistic or hurtful people, or those who intend to get their piece of the good life at the expense of others. I can't see myself changing in this regard. But it's been a pleasant transition to acquire more of my sense of self from my own choices, and less from an lazy derision of the people around me.
posted by itstheclamsname at 8:18 AM on August 31, 2010 [19 favorites]

Best answer: Embracing the things that interest me, rather than dismissing something because it's "uncool". I cut myself off from far too many things because of that stupid attitude.

Having kids later in life. I'm 39 now, and my oldest just turned 3. I'm much more confident in my ability to raise them than I would have been in the past.

Learning how to be content with what I have, and grateful. Take that "Is this it?" question and turn it on its head. This is not to say that one should settle, or not strive throughout life to be a better person. Simply realizing that the building blocks of a happy life are all around you, and much of it has to do with your attitude toward life.
posted by wwartorff at 8:24 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Waking up early, especially on weekends. It's the most peaceful and quiet time of day. Paired with a good cup of coffee and a book, you can't beat it.

Although, I'm 25 right now so I must be weird.
posted by Don Gately at 8:32 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: An appreciation of pleasure (of all kinds) that I could not have had before; compassion for others that has expanded because I've been knocked around a bit since I was 20; feeling knowledgeable and well-informed (this may be an illusion, but in relation to my peers/most younger people, it's true); pretty much being old enough that my hipness is a moot point, and therefore something I need never care about again.

That last one is a strange thing; you can feel the young people noticing your age and sagginess and lack of hipness and judging you for it, but you can also feel that they're intimidated by or drawn to you. Because you know more than they do, or at least they think you do; they're still in the stage of life where they're used to older authority figures. It's a feeling of power that I did not anticipate. It's a little unnerving, but it does feel kind of nice.
posted by emjaybee at 8:35 AM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]

One thing I like about being older is the fact that I feel more in control about choosing whom I socialize with and consider friends. I feel more confident about my personal choices in that domain and elsewhere.

Seconding a new-found appreciation for well-fitting clothes, which comes from the freedom that comes with money to buy new clothes and confidence that you can throw old clothes away that you don't need anymore, rather than clinging to them because you have to hold on to stuff you can't afford to replace.
posted by deanc at 8:42 AM on August 31, 2010



Not frantically worrying about whether there was something better, more awesome, more MORE MORE!!! to do with either my life or my Friday night.

Having enough money to not worry so much.

Career success, more or less.


A grown up relationship with a real man that -- like others above -- I never would have dated in my early 20s. (We'd have fought like dogs.)

A better sense of "the rhythms of life", or something: connection to my family and full recognition that my time with my parents is limited: maybe 10 years more at *best*.

Being finally ready to have children (yet also realizing that it may be too late.)

I'm 38.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:47 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 47. Knowing, deep down, that there are no certainties and life can and will change in a heartbeat. I used to end up in deep depressions, thinking I was trapped and there would be no escape but now I know that if you just sit back for a few minutes, things will change. Things may be awful now, or great now, but definitely in a few years you can look back and say, well, that sure is different. That doesn't mean there are never regrets - things may not work out the way you wanted them to, but they do work out and life goes on. Age gives you perspective. Of course, I managed to reach my advanced age without either financial security or a partner, so, um, I need that perspective maybe. Still, I feel stronger now than I did when I was young, more capable, more trusting of myself and my own instincts and that's a nice trade off.

Also, you can snarl at stupid young faux punks - "When I was young if I wanted to wear a goddamn Misfits jacket I would have had to make it myself. And I would have had to know at least one of their song titles." - without getting in a fight. They just think you're a crazy old lady.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:21 AM on August 31, 2010 [8 favorites]

Sleeping less, waking up early, and, yes, not giving a flying fuck about anybody's opinion. And getting to tell people so with good humor.

Also? There's something delightful about the nostalgia and ongoing thrill of enjoying the music of one's youth as it becomes dated and ancient. The Smiths have held up well over 25 years!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:29 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm 45 and I enjoy rail whiskey and cheap beer (I was into all the pretentious single malt scotches and microbrews in my 20s). I enjoy silence. I enjoy poetry. I enjoy not caring about being right. I enjoy drinking water. I enjoy going to bed early. I enjoy prayer and meditation. I enjoy being there, wherever I am. I enjoy comfortable shoes. I enjoy my frumpiness and studied un-hipness.

I am in the process of paring down my life "style". I am beginning to understand how my dad got to be that guy who's impossible to shop for because he doesn't need or want anything. I hope to be there within the next decade. That's my goal.
posted by cross_impact at 9:49 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm 45 and I enjoy rail whiskey and cheap beer (I was into all the pretentious single malt scotches and microbrews in my 20s).
posted by cross_impact at 5:49 PM on August 31

Ha! And I'm the exact opposite. I used to drink cheap stuff when I was young (mainly because it was all I could afford) and bang on about the unnecessary snobbery of paying big money for food and drink when the cheap stuff could be good. I still think the cheap stuff can be good but man, I think the expensive stuff can be much, much better. At the tender age of seventeen I decided I didn't like scotch at all after getting sick on too much Johnnie Walker. I maintained this position for thirty years. And then I tried an old Talisker... and scales fell from my palate. I am now a single malt junkie, and very happy to be so.

Not a derail, I hope, just an illustration that the things we like/dislike when young/old can be polar opposites, depending on the individual.
posted by Decani at 10:30 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

20 years ago I never would have given a thought to what my body does for me. These days I treat my physical self like I treat my old Maytag: Respect, TLC and routine servicing.
So, yeah, I really really appreciate my body and my generally good health.
posted by Pennyblack at 10:38 AM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: 32. Lots of people have said ones I agree with already ... I'll add that literature keeps getting better. As I experience more, understand more, become more sympathetic towards others, great literature just gets better and better and better because *I* can get so much more depth from it, because *I* am deeper now. Some books that I just read because I HAD to in high school astonish me with their beauty now. Others I read over and over, having enjoyed them through my whole reading life, but every reading, as I'm a little older and have a little more compassion, I get something more out of them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:40 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

Early mornings.

Not having every bump feel like the end of the world.
posted by Pax at 10:51 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

My 20s are almost a full year behind me, and some of the responsibilities of adulthood (caring about my credit, buying a house, talking to my parents as a fellow-adult instead of their offspring who are concerned but have never faced their worries) bring both some excitement in this notion of being adult. Same think with the idea of having our own offspring - my wife and I can be selfish now, but looking at little ones sparks some weird excitement in my heart that I never thought would exist.

Slow-dancing with my wife to songs played on YouTube, after enjoying a glass of wine while sitting on furniture that wasn't second-hand. A weird mix of things, but they made for a wonderful evening.

Some of the spontaneity is gone (What, you have tickets to Radiohead? Doors open in 3 hours, and we're 4 hours away? Let's do this!), but there is comfort in planning head.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:51 AM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: 61. Self confidence, and learning that just showing up is 90% of pretty well everything.
posted by Logophiliac at 11:01 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by captainmickey at 11:02 AM on August 31, 2010

I get a lot more satisfaction out of just being myself than I did in my 20s. I have more confidence in myself and more compassion for myself (as well as for other people). I'm a better person now. I see the nuances in things, rather than the dogmatic black and white. I am better at my job and get more satisfaction out of that; I have a job where I use the skills and experience and education I've acquired over the last 20 years. And yes, the sex is definitely better, too.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:03 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]



Seeing bigger, having a wider perspective. Being able to really listen to and actually help other people, instead of everything being about me.

Everything being more authentic.
In my 20s, life was like being in a new car that I was just learning to drive -- trying to work all the gadgets, worrying about scratching the paint, and oh my god, where the heck am I going?! In my 40s...I'm driving. I know the car, if not the road ahead. I listen to whatever radio station I want and don't give a damn what anybody else thinks.
posted by Paris Elk at 11:09 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Early mornings. Never in my life would I have ever guessed that 6AM would be the best time to get up on a Saturday...but it is. You make coffee, step outside with the dog, walk around. It's cool and quiet. That's really it. Doesn't sound like much, but it is.

Also, having my finances in order. Knowing when I can and can't afford something and having enough money or security that if something happens, I can most likely pay for it/take care of it.
posted by phelixshu at 11:35 AM on August 31, 2010

Not rushing. Quiet time. Cooking instead of just eating. My children. A single 15 year relationship instead of 15 relationships a year. Sipping a fine bourbon or wine instead of chugging cans of beer and downing shots.

Just slowing down a bit.
posted by Splunge at 11:36 AM on August 31, 2010

Women's brains.
More money.
Alone time.
Good beer.

(in that order)
posted by coolguymichael at 12:32 PM on August 31, 2010

As others have said, stopping caring about what strangers think of me. It's liberating - you start acting more naturally and social events / meeting new people becomes less stressful. And partly because of that, people respond to you better and it's a wonderful feedback loop!

Recognising that you can be friends with people of all ages - in my 20's, most of my friends were the same age as me. Now (37), I have friends ranging from 19 to 69. And that's broadened my horizons no end. And appreciating my friends more - in my 20s, friendships were more transient - now, they're more long term.

Travelling alone can be fun - you meet the most amazing people! Actually travelling generally.

Developing my own sense of style rather than slavishly following fashion that doesn't suit me.

Having my own place.

Progressing my career - doing a job that I enjoy and am good at, no longer in an entry level position. Having more money makes life less stressful and I can do more things that I enjoy. But also realising that it doesn't matter if I don't get to the top - money and status don't make you happy.

Doing things I enjoy, and experimenting with new things - rather than just doing what my friends are doing.

Realising that the more I know, the more I realise there is to learn - becoming wise is a lifelong journey, and I'm going to enjoy every step along the way...
posted by finding.perdita at 1:25 PM on August 31, 2010

I'm a better judge of character now. I can spot a drama queen at 300 feet and run!

I don't think in black and white terms anymore. I used to be unable to wrap my head around the concept that a reasonably nice person could do shitty things. I see people more holistically now.

I appreciate my parents and other relatives much more.

I respect money much more and am trying to figure out how to be more than just a starving artist.

I quit smoking at 29 and I'm grateful for that every time I see someone in their 30s and older smoking.

I used to love the thrill of the chase. Now I see value in long-term relationships.

I no longer think that if I were to achieve my youthful aspirations (yes, they included fame, wealth, and thumbing my nose at my high school bullies) that they would bear me off into a euphoric state of happy-ever-after. Fame seems intrusive, wealth unnecessary, and the ex-bullies, I'm sure, would shrug and say "meh." There's some sadness in letting go of the Dream, but freedom too. If I want to do it, I'll be doing it for love and that's it. No pressure.
posted by xenophile at 1:48 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It's going to be very hard to mark best answers on this one. Thanks everyone for your contributions, they were almost all exactly what I was looking for.
posted by the foreground at 2:00 PM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: I'm 35.

Owning my own company has been an incredible blessing. It was something I knew I wanted to do when I was 25, but was in no way prepared to make that leap or take on that much responsibility. But now? Even my most stressful days are nowhere near the stress level I felt when I was working for someone else. It's just exponentially better.

Allowing a truly good man to take the time to show me who he is so that I could fall in love with him organically (rather than continuing to explore those intense 'fatal attraction' types). Sweet easy love is incredibly joyful and rewarding. Duh. That one took a while to learn...

Having the money to make my life comfortable and simple is really nice. It's not about the stuff. (In fact I find myself getting more and more nauseated by 'stuff'.) It's about knowing that I can really take care of myself that feels terrific.

Being totally at peace with doing absolutely nothing but reading all weekend long if I'm tired.

Feeling really comfortable in my own skin. I really love who I am, weaknesses and all. And I know which clothes will look good on me before I even have to try them on. (Related: when I was younger I used to long for a different body type, different skin color, different everything. I laugh that notion off now and enjoy my sexy little body exactly the way it is.)
posted by ohyouknow at 2:22 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm 35. I savor

... knowing that how others treat me doesn't have anything to do with me.

... being able to deal with challenging situations, knowing that one way or another I'll work it out.

... the feeling of admiration, love and respect I have for myself.

... how quickly I lose interest in men that are jerks.

... feeling relaxed about most things.

... jumping into bed super early.

... being understanding and accepting of myself.

There's a lot of things, but those are some of the first ones that come to mind. I like being older! I have always felt like things just get better and better each year.
posted by Locochona at 2:48 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

The biggest things for me (35):

1. As others have mentioned, not caring about what other people think. Self-confidence. I think part of this is simply having a better idea of what others *are* thinking.
2. Learning that people who have different opinions than mine are not wrong.
3. Learning that it isn't my job to correct everyone who's wrong.

Aside from these, I often feel like I'm supposed to be feeling older.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 4:06 PM on August 31, 2010

34, and I'm still trying to figure it out, but one of the bigger joys for me is having a home, a place where I'm going to be for the foreseeable future, and being able to go from seeing how to make it better, to planning it, to actually making it better by myself.

Strangely, on the other side of that, I want much, much less than I used to. There are things I would like to have, sure, but I don't desire things nearly as much as I used to, and I'm unlikely to buy things for myself. Evidently this makes me a very difficult person to buy gifts for, and it frustrates my wife when she asks 'What do you want for your birthday/Xmas?' and I can't answer her, because I really don't want anything in particular.

(It is still nice receiving gifts though.)
posted by Ghidorah at 5:19 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

This isn't an answer, but I have to say that this a truly wonderful question with wonderful answers. Actually...I do have an answer. I'm really appreciating superior wisdom and talent of others now. When I was younger I hated better-than-me bastards.
posted by Pennyblack at 6:14 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

Nthing everyone else here who alluded to being comfortable with themselves, the little bit of the "fuck you, fuck off, fuck myself? sure! the sex is great" but also the "hey, you're cool, and you think I'm cool, and we had friends 10 years ago that'd say otherwise."

Still, a lot of the "best answers" here are by people who like who they are and are comfortable (see: all the answers about debt and financial security).

Age doesn't guarantee anything; glands (hormones) do a lot of thinking for us in our 20's, they're still there in our 30's+, at least for me. Having kids might dampen down those hormones ... can anyone confirm/collaborate?
posted by porpoise at 7:31 PM on August 31, 2010

naps. (seriously). I'm 35.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:24 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Being average.

This. It was incredibly painful and upsetting, for a long time, to encounter people who were clearly better than me at anything. It didn't matter that they and I had different life experiences and talents. I still saw myself as being lesser, and felt really bad about it.

Now I understand that I am competent (and sometimes, even slightly above average) in certain areas. But most importantly, I am happy and content.

It's an old saying, "Success means wanting what you get, not getting what you want." but as I get older I feel like an even better attitude is that it's better to be happy, and to help others be happy, than to be "successful".
posted by Deathalicious at 7:28 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Being alive. I have had a chronic disease since childhood which, at the time I was born, was a slow death sentence. I didn't think I would live past 30 and because of that did a lot of stupid things due to "short timer syndrome". Thankfully, treatment has improved and now I'm not only doing well but probably in the best shape of my life. And unlike some poor souls who think their apogee of fitness and ability was at age 18, I can look forward to increasing mobility and independence due to improvements in technology.
posted by benzenedream at 11:57 PM on September 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Sorry for being late to this chat filter but after a quick perusal of the answers I didn't quite see this one:

My entire perspective on concepts like satisfaction, reward, impact, partnership, family has been skewed by my appreciation of the fact that the end is closer than not. Being 51 I know for a fact that I am on the short end of the ride - in my case, perhaps very short as I don't live a lifestyle focused entirely on longevity.

I have to struggle to remember the events of the last 25 years and the perception of time passing accelerates exponentially so I'm assuming the final 25 years (or so) will be over very quickly. And then that's it - I won't have any more "cares" or "worries" - because I'll be dead. I won't have any more thoughts or dreams or wishes or anything. And soon after that no one will know that I existed, leave alone give a shit. It's one thing to intellectually understand this in your 20's - it's another to start truly accepting the end and start living your life with that in mind.

The problem with telling younger people to appreciate their time and health is that you rarely hear what you're supposed to do with that appreciation. Well, I'll tell you: travel, quit your soul sucking job (today!!), fuck (including giving great head and training your partner to give it as well) and fuck's sake: never, ever waste a moment worrying.

Do not sacrifice everything for anything - including your kids - probably the biggest myth in American culture is that you have to bend over and take it up the ass because you had offspring. You don't. You can still dream and you can still pursue the dream. If you think that's going to be a problem don't have kids. It's OK to not have kids if you think it's going to impede on what you need to do in your life. If all you're worried about is what others will think when you chose not to have kids then you've already failed at least two tests.

In general: dream, dream big and ignore everything that gets in the way. Work for peace, work for justice, work for the warm sun and fuck on the beach. It's your life which means it's your death. Do the hardest you can to picture the very, very end of your life - that last minute, the last breath and what that will feel like. In that moment there is no room for God or heaven or regret or fear or timidity or, sorry, grace. There's just you - and then there isn't.
posted by victors at 5:27 PM on September 4, 2010 [19 favorites]

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