Embracing the beauty of age through the decades | Georgie St Clair

Why I’m embracing the beauty of age (a story through the decades)

Revealing the beauty of age | Illustration by Georgie St Clair

Today I’m revealing why I’m embracing the beauty of age and how I’ve become a more self-aware, happier person, only due to my four decades of experience.

Twenties

In my twenties, I was an emotional car crash. Most of it is a blur, to be honest.

I ran off with someone 9 years my senior at the age of 18 after my gap year and got married at 20. It was downhill from there. With the huge exception of having my boys at 25 and 27. As much as I loved them, I didn’t fully appreciate motherhood until much later.

My twenties were a time of full on self-doubt, not belonging, ignoring every signpost to dig myself out of the bloody great rut I had put myself in. I was a great one at ‘grinning and bearing it’ – that’s what I was taught – especially as I was infamous in my family for not sticking at things – ballet, brownies, club after club. Nothing seemed to fit. (Unrest, I have since learned is a very typical trait of the creative personality.) The only activity I wanted to stick at was music but that didn’t work out either. I also loved art. You would have thought I would pursue this. Again, it wasn’t to be, until much later in my life.

When I found myself stuck and unhappy in my mid-twenties, I thought “well I’ve made my bed, I need to remain laying in its stench and dirty rotten sheets”. No matter how many opportunities that, in hindsight, presented themselves, I stayed put. I even turned down an unconditional offer from Goldsmith’s University, to stay at the Uni I hated, where I was deeply unhappy for ‘love’. Stupid. I have kicked myself on many occasions at this decision.

This decade, was one of living with the black dog of depression, self-harm, medicating with alcohol and other substances, over-exercising, a variety of therapists and general behaviour I’m not proud of. It’s not surprising that eventually, I burst under the pressure I had put myself under.

I was going so crazy I briefly thought about admitting myself to an institution towards the end of this period. Luckily I found the courage, fuelled by my deep unhappiness and wanting to be a more present mother to my two boys, that I decided to change my life. This meant divorcing my husband at the time and from my old ways. I eventually divorced myself from that life in my early thirties.

Thirties

My early to mid-thirties were about rediscovery. I returned to University in Brighton to do an MA. Fell in love – for real this time – wow that was a very different experience! Made healthier more informed decisions about my future. It was a decade of righting many of the wrongs of my twenties. Coming to terms with the decisions I had made in my twenties that I would have to live with forever.

This wasn’t an easy time, especially for my boys because I had to be selfish. A term a mother just shouldn’t use right?

In the long run, it was imperative I made these changes. I may have ended up in that institution or worse… (yes I considered ‘that’ too).

My experience of love, marriage and having a child in my 30’s was worlds apart from where I found myself in my 20s. And I had the benefit of experience to help me this time.

It was still a rollercoaster of emotions and difficulties in my relationship with my now husband – all the stuff the baby books don’t tell you. Plus the complications of being a ‘ReadyMade’ family, dealing with my boys taking on a step-dad and new sister. I could write a separate post… no… a book, on that subject.

As difficult as it was, my hubby and I saw it through and now Daisy is 5, we’re stronger and still very much in love. I’m also grateful every day that my boys turned out to be the wonderful loving, caring, intelligent and funny young men that they have grown to be, despite their crazy mum 😉

Forties

Now I’m in my 40s, what a difference!

My life experiences have educated me, beaten me up, scolded me, comforted me and left many emotional and physical scars. However I think this is the first time in my life I really know me – or at least I am beginning to:

  • I’m lot less patient for starters.
  • I don’t stand for as much fluff and bullshit.
  • I’ve realised I was conditioned to people please, which is ridiculous.
  • I’ll never be that miracle half a stone lighter. And it certainly won’t make me happier if I was.
  • The wrinkles will only get deeper but create more interest and character in my face.
  • I’ll never be CEO of a bluechip company or be riduclously wealthy because I would rather pursue my love of art and creativity.
  • That there’s only a handful of things one should give a fuck about in life. The rest is forgettable. That goes the same for friends.
  • People will let you down. You’ll let them down and disappoint them too. That’s OK.
  • I’m much happier in my own company or with a handful of people I love and admire.
  • I also crave solitude. It’s good for my soul and sanity.
  • I’ve also FINALLY learnt, that I can’t ignore my creativity. Seriously, creativity is the rock of happiness and mental health.

As I’ve realised all of this, the call to draw my ladies has become stronger. Meaning I absolutely must explore the issue of ageing, over the age of forty. That’s why I’ve started The Art of Age Project.

Knowing that every decade builds on the next, instead of feeling fear, I’m looking forward to having another 10 years of wisdom and experience in my fifties…and the opportunities and challenges life will bring, for inspiration. I’m very aware I’ll be facing the menopause this decade – oh joy! My boys leaving home. More time freedom. Ageing parents etc etc.

All wonderful, difficult, shitty, beautiful, ecstatic, depressing, elated experiences. The wisdom that will accompany them is priceless.

And Finally

At 84, the French experimental sculptor Louise Bourgeois was asked if she could have made her work earlier in her career:
“Absolutely not,” she replied. “I was not sophisticated enough.”

Now that is something I’m aspiring to!

Follow The Art of Age project over on Instagram. Or read more about The Art of Age in this post.

Have an inspired day

Georgie x

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