Stop Worrying About Getting Older

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"I'm worried that you keep leaving your handbag there. Someone could nick it." 

A female staff member in her late 50s barked this at me. We were at a work event at a local public park, supervising the play-doh tent for a community festival. I met this woman a few moments ago in the swap of staff members from the previous shift. While she sat on a chair in the far corner of the tent, not engaging with the children (which she was sort of supposed to be doing), I was bending over praising a small child about her little house, dog and tree creations which her 4-year-old fingers tirelessly kneaded together. 

"Oh, I'm not too worried," I smiled regarding my handbag's distance from me, "I run pretty fast." 

"It's because you're too young to understand," she shot back. "You're still at that age where you think you're invincible. You just think you can do anything, and it's because you haven't been through any hardship in your life."

My ears pricked up, side of mouth curved. Now I was offended. Never mind my Father's passing away at 19, my family's subsequent financial and emotional hardships, broken relationships and the like; to this woman, I had definitely not been through any suffering purely due to my age and stage of life. 

"I'm flattered that you think I'm so young," I said, trying to diffuse the growing tension in the exchange, "but I'm really not that young."

"Oh really?" she said with a cock of her head, "how old are you then?"

"Take a guess," I tried to smile in a light hearted way, although incredibly uncomfortable at the unwarranted hostility coming from this worker I had met literally 30 minutes ago. 

"Hmm well, girls of your cultural background tend to look much younger than they are, so I'd say you were about 30."

"I'd say you were correct," and I hoped now she would shut up.

Instead, as if she was a shot-and-fired bullet from a cosmological gun, she said "You know given everything I've been through in my life, 30 is still quite young, you know I'm 57, and you just realise when you become more mature that life isn't so easy, that you have to face reality. And girls of your age don't know that. You just think you're indispensable."

My heartbeat grew faster, even as I tried to sassily deter her with comments like "Oh yes, 57, that is quite old," and "Yes, maybe it's time for you to get life insurance," I could not believe this woman's level of venom-intensity. Something about my youth clearly triggered something deep inside her, enough to emotionally assassinate a complete stranger in a what-should-be professional context.

In that heated exchange I mired through the reasons why she felt it justified to speak to someone... anyone - let alone a random stranger - like that.

My colleague, who had heard most of this conversation take place and did not engage, was a Mother of four daughters, a year shy of her 39th birthday. We broke off from our shift together, a hurried farewell away from the tension.

"Wow," she said, no longer within earshot, "I couldn't believe the way she was speaking to you. That woman must be really insecure."

 

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blink and then you're old.

What trophies shall line the wall-units of our souls in our old age? Will we "young girls" survive not being valued for our taut breasts, pert bums, limitless energy and the ability to lift three small children at once? It is easy for me to say now that my youthful looks aren't as valuable as my knowledge, career and skills, but I think the rubber will smack the road when I hit 50 and so do my eye-bags.

I hope that woman is surrounded by people who appreciate her. I hope her children love her, I hope her husband has stuck around. I hope her colleagues aren't targets for her mean monologues and I hope her financial assets column is longer than her liabilities column. (She said she didn't have life insurance after all, which concerns me for someone aged 57 who proudly asserted she had survived many hardships).

As I approach age 30 in less than 2 days, I've found the anxiety of growing older present in people who have unmet expectations for their lives. Ouch?

When my 26 year old friend complains that she is 4 years from 30, she looks at me and adds quickly "Sorry Jess, I know you're turning 30 soon."

But she has no reason to apologise. Her distaste for growing older is her own emotional reality. Turning 30 is exciting to me (and recently I wrote a letter to my 39-year-old, fabulous and unconditionally accepted self!). We are the ones who attach positive meanings to neutral events, and my optimism about the future prevails.  

If you would indulge me, here's why I think growing older is awesome:

 Yeah baby!

Yeah baby!

1. People will finally take you seriously.

In my 8 year Social Work career, I confidently walk into Principal’s offices of major high schools, demand blood results for clients in children’s hospitals, interrupt Doctors in consultations as I’m a fellow “allied health professional”, and supervise 21-year-old uni students. 

Yes, I do love feeling important. And while I still look like a young Asian girl sometimes - my age, experience and air about me projects a 30-something year old who knows what the heck she’s talking about. And I feel the respect through the phone much more than I used to. 

 Tiger focus.

Tiger focus.

2. You have less time for stupidity.

As a Dating Coach, I love speaking to women in their 30s and 40s. Oftentimes they are career established, have written books, own houses and have their practical and emotional sh** together. A woman of such high calibre can date with clarity of focus - “Do I even like spending time with this guy?”  - “Does he intellectually stimulate me?” - “Does he really cherish me?”

Yes, their problems are real too - a closing fertility window, perhaps. Or thinking men are intimidated by them (spoiler: they’re not! You just have to let them fix your computer, carry your groceries and cry on their shoulder from time to time.) 

Alas women in these age brackets tend to be calmer, more self-assured, and pretty much self-actualised.

3. You mysteriously get a double portion of self-confidence.

 Rawr!

Rawr!

My coaching clients often tell me that the older they get, the less insecure they become. They have “figured themselves out” and fallen in love with who they are; who God has created them to be.  

I would say this is because life with God is a life of constant growth. And we can’t grow if we don’t self-reflect and change. If you simply want life to always be good, then stagnancy is not an option! 

In my case (and excuse this blog’s very Jess-is-turning-30-and-doesn’t-give-a-crap-anymore tone), when we attach ourselves to a purpose that uses every gift in our God-gave-us-this Pack, we realise that life just gets better and better. 

I know that with more knowledge, skill and experience, my practice as a Coach will become more established. People trust a 50 year old more than they trust a 29-year-old with the deep inner work of their romantic struggles. And I will endeavour to give my clients the best possible version of myself that I can realistically give.

Did you just have a milestone birthday? Share your musings about getting older in the comments.

WANT MORE WRITINGS LIKE THIS? DOWNLOAD MY FREE e-book here.

FOLLOW: @jessica.santosa

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How To Let Him Pursue You

Hello guys! I know it's been 4 months since I last posted. A quick bullet point update of life in 2017 thus far:

  • I dyed my hair grey-blonde, and had a new photo shoot with a very talented friend called Dan Ax in November. Hence, all pages have been updated with new snaps!
  • My Social Worker position in Western Sydney fulfils all buckets of great organisation, meaningful work, utilising and growing my skills. 
  • After reaching a particular financial goal I will be pursuing a Masters in Counselling and Psychotherapy (or equivalent) to become a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. (Don't worry, I'll be 40 by the time I finish my PhD if they accept me first try).
  • I spent Valentine's Day with a beautiful man who asked me to be his girlfriend. And yes, he absolutely subscribes to Jesus.

THE CURRENT SITUATION

Falling in love is terrifying.

For those of you who have subscribed to this blog since late 2015, you have journeyed with me as I have tried to untangle the confusing Christian Dating Culture. My heart is with you.

Five years of singleness was not easy. My church atmosphere was rife with expectation, mostly well-meaning, but not always so well-informed. Yes, we must know our Bibles - what does God say about relationships, dating, and marriage? 

But we must also understand the person in front of us. How to relate and connect, how to empathise, how to speak the truth in love? I like to joke that I met my boyfriend on Tinder. I didn't - but I say that because I think meeting someone on Tinder is completely fine. It is a modern introduction tool, and uptight Christians need to stop being so judgmental.  

Long term, my key frustration in the church is the lack of critical thinking. I'm not in a rush to pretend I understand things anymore. I hate praying out loud in Bible Study, I don't want to feel like I'm performing. I dislike strangers who ask me what the Holy Spirit had taught me recently. There's too much context I'd have to fill them in on.   

 Balance between God's Word and reality of life.

Balance between God's Word and reality of life.

Too much over simplification of ways to do things, and I think there's not enough people saying "No matter what is preached on the pulpit, it is your own life and your own relationship with God.Since Jan 2016 I have witnessed a handful of weddings, and two of those now a rubble of separation and divorce. My point being, I see people in my community rushing to get married, but not attaining the map of wisdom to walk towards a satisfying, emotionally-fulfilling marriage.  

Please don't think I'm being judgmental. As I write these words, my boyfriend's voice lingers "If we don't take risks, we don't get anything." I think that is faith - doing it scared. I think God's love is reckless, and we've been made in His image. 

Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
    like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
    all the wealth of one’s house for love,
    it would be utterly scorned.

- Song of Songs 8:6-7

That is why I write this post, ladies and gentlemen. If falling in love is incredibly risky, and the break up of a marriage the most traumatic incident in the life of a human being, it is because love must be worth it. Dizzying spells, can't sleep, constant flow of overwhelm tears; this is God's clever and insane analogy for His intense commitment and feelings about us, His people

A GENTLEMAN'S PURSUIT, A LADY'S RESTRAINT

I'm ok with you cringing, but man-pursuing-woman stories are the best. 

I am surrounded by many bachelors, who are mature and masculine, love God, and honestly do want to embark on the journey of getting to know a beautiful godly woman.

 Ladies think they are not pursuing, not asking girls out, but I know first hand that they are.

Ladies think they are not pursuing, not asking girls out, but I know first hand that they are.

It is an honour to be asked what I think about what one of my brothers are thinking about a girl they crush on, what their next move should be, if they act in a certain way, will that appear desperate? Too much? Too soon? What if she says no? 

Their self-esteem is fragile, and their egos largely dependent on how successful they are with you, ladies. 

All this to say - godly men absolutely want to pursue you, sisters. Anecdotally, I can confirm that. 

Now that I am in a relationship (which is still very new), I see how all the etchings of men are vastly different to that of women. 

"I just kept asking you out on dates, and you kept saying yes." my now boyfriend tells me.

"When I couldn't ask for your number that day we met, I sat in the car with my friend and we came up with strategies on how I was going to get it." 

And in this origin story, I was completely oblivious to what his plans were, let alone what he was concocting inside his own head. 

5 PHRASES FOR US TO INTERNALISE:

It is a mix of our foundations in Christ, our emotional life, and our actions. In a previous post I talk about social competency as a strategic move. 

These statements are internal beliefs of the woman who deeply accepts herself, enjoys her life, adds value to others, keeps a level-head when she meets a cute guy and, is a naturally hard-to-get, high value, woman of God who knows how to let a worthy guy pursue her:

  1. "I love who God has made me."
  2. "I have created an awesome life."
  3. "I want everyone to feel welcome and connected."
  4. "I will judge a man by his actions."
  5. "The man I choose will adore me and be compatible with my inner self."

"I LOVE WHO GOD HAS MADE ME"

Attitude Take-Away: Believe you are amazing and worthy of the best, and it will show on the outside.

Her name was Janine. She was fiercely intelligent, funny and asked me great questions. "Get me a drink, babe?" to which her boyfriend, who was sitting beside her, swiftly obeyed. When she laughed, her black curls bounced against her tanned cheeks as she threw her chin up in the air. She was also a size 18.

Janine, who I will never forget, was one of the most attractive women I had ever met. She oozed confidence, a genuine interest in people, and was intensely curious about many topics. Her energy and aura made her magnetic. 

Women who accept themselves emanate a lovingkindness. Janine thought quite highly of herself, respected the tough narrative that was her past, and how it produced this amazing, resilient woman. She was kind and gracious to herself, and was therefore kind in how she spoke to everyone else.

After meeting her, I realised that confident people back themselves. And it shows in the way they dress, how they stand tall, how they show compassion to others, the words they use, down to the way they carry their shoulders.

They really believe they are loved and accepted by God, and this vibrant energy naturally spills out wherever they go.

Action Point: Create good energy wherever you go, by genuinely showing interest in others. Listen with empathy and never make anyone feel stupid for lacking knowledge that you already possess. People are drawn to people who are warm, considerate, nurturing and interesting.

"I HAVE CREATED AN AWESOME LIFE."

Attitude Take-Away: Take responsibility for your own happiness.

Even if you met Mr Right tomorrow, and decided to become quickly official, he would want to go on the Grand Tour of Your Life. 

You'd take him to lunch with your best friends, bring him home to meet your family, go to see your favourite band play at the place you love to go to, and during the week, you would catch up about your stressful work days to each other. Then, you'd take turns to provide each other with emotional support before cracking jokes and sharing God-revelations or whatever else you want to talk about with future-projected boyfriend.

So before Mr Right comes galavanting across the country side to halt his horse with a screech at your doorstep, the pursued woman isn't waiting around for him. She is too busy consoling her girlfriends, serving in a ministry that fills her soul, sharpening her skills for the job she loves working in. She is distracted by the latest Suits episode, and her goals to save for her first property. She is tied up in her 5am gym routine and loves trying on her latest Lorna Jane outfit. Then, she might hang out with her Mum.

She enjoys the life she created, and continues creating.

She is too busy to waste time over-analysing the actions of the cute guy she just met at church... 

Action Point: Schedule 2 things this month that make you feel a) relaxed and peaceful and b) buzzing with excitement. Other things need to be more exciting than our relationship with a man!

"I WANT EVERYONE TO FEEL WELCOME AND CONNECTED."

 Want some steak?

Want some steak?

Attitude Take-Away: Always aim to create a good atmosphere regardless of the outcome. Not doing this will limit your opportunities to create new connections. 

I met my boyfriend at a good friend's birthday party. He popped in for a drink for 5 minutes, waiting for his mate to finish up so they could migrate to a Gallery Opening of another friend that was happening later that night. Across the room I saw him sit down at the end of the table with 2 other guys. 

As the birthday party held only about 20 people, most of which I knew, I sat in the empty seat beside this kind-faced stranger and said "Hello, I'm Jessica." 

Was I immediately attracted to him? No. Was I nervous about approaching him? No, I'd done it so many times before, introducing myself to a stranger was something I practiced regularly, almost daily.

In other words, it was me who made the first move

Action Point: Go out to a social event where most guests will be people you hardly know. Spend most of your time talking to new faces. 

"I WILL JUDGE A MAN BY HIS ACTIONS."

Attitude Take-Away: Choose to focus only on what you can control, and leave the guy's actions to God. (ie. Complimenting his new hair cut. His response will not be in your control).

Godly men want to hunt, chase and pursue. The question is how do we allow them the room to do this? 

We need to take a risk by putting ourselves in their way, but NOT removing their challengePlease listen to me. So many women misunderstand this very crucial detail!

After I said a mere hello, my boyfriend used mutual connections to ask for my number, asked me out (on our first date), and then asked for my exclusivity 4 dates later. He was gentle and well-paced, but extremely clear about his intentions.  

 You move, he moves. Repeat.

You move, he moves. Repeat.

Think of it like a chess game, where you take a step, then he takes a step. If you move too many steps forward, the whole dynamic will be ruined. Even if you are captivated by his good looks, charm and excellent conversation skills, that is a reason to say hello and introduce yourself. That's it. If he's keen on you too, he will ask further questions, like if you're a dog or a cat person. Then, your number. 

Men are socially conditioned to know it's their job to do the chasing. 

As women, once we decide we're keen on a guy, it's as if we are biologically wired to invest so much emotional real estate before he's done anything to deserve it. Suddenly a handsome new acquaintance consumes our thoughts, our conversations with our girlfriends, and the analytical segment of our prayers. 

But innocent flirting at the Easter Sunday dinner with you is exactly that - flirting. It is not pursuing. It is not investing. And no prospective Christian male deserves to take up your precious brain space if he hasn't even asked you out! I don't care how many mission trips to Zimbabwe he's been on!

Action Point: Next time a guy asks you out, say yes if you want to go. If you don't, say no, but tell him you appreciate him having the balls to do so. Do not, under any circumstance send twenty texts to a guy who has not even asked you out!

"THE MAN I CHOOSE MUST ADORE ME AND BE COMPATIBLE WITH MY INNER SELF"

 Can you go on a road trip with him and not be pulling teeth for conversation? 

Can you go on a road trip with him and not be pulling teeth for conversation? 

Attitude Take-Away: It doesn't matter how great a person he is, the way he treats you is most important.

I know many women who have been caught up in a man's resume. "He's got an MBA, owns 3 houses, a boat and a million dollar business" she says, yet he was looking at his phone during their whole conversation. Or we think our unique personality will only fit with his equally eccentric, guitar playing, fedora wearing, always slipping into deep-and-meaningful-conversation interactions; and yet the only time he texts you is when he wants something... bi-monthly.

The other extreme, is the guy who is heavy-handed in his pursuit of you, but during the 30 minute drive home, you barely had anything to talk about. For more information on compatibility, read my post from last year here

You are looking for someone whom you are mutually attracted and connected. Choose the guy that treats you well and who you effortlessly have 1 hour conversations with. Choose the guy who shares your sense of humour, and digs deeper into your "yes, it was fine" response when he asks how your day was. 

Action Point: Be open to dating anyone of good character, balancing the choice you make of his super star qualities and how beautifully he treats you. Settle for nothing less. 

LIKE, COMMENT WITH ANY FURTHER INSIGHTS, QUESTIONS OR LOVING DISAGREEMENTS! WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE ON THE COMFORT BLOG? 

READ MORE OF THE COMFORT BLOG:

A Note on Intimacy

A Note on Intimacy

Admit it, you're looking for your right-fit someone, and it's taking forever. Ladies and gentlemen, don't judge us singles! The struggle is real

Part 2 - Figuring Out Why We Want To Be In A Relationship

Part 2 - Figuring Out Why We Want To Be In A Relationship

 

“I thought that this was what love meant,
a struggle to possess when we only fully possess ourselves,
a need to have another person exactly how you want them,
an unwillingness to accept that everything is impermanent.”[1]

I salivated over these lines because they hit the nail onto my skull:

The measure in which we can love another in a way that brings them life, is a reflection of our relationship with permanency and our understanding of impermanency.

Part 1 - Figuring Out What We Want In A Relationship

Part 1 - Figuring Out What We Want In A Relationship

I firmly believe that the powerful equation of:

(a) Really Knowing Oneself  

+ (b) Indiscriminately Meeting New People  

+ (c) Taking Responsibility For Your Own Happiness

(will equal) = Knowing what we want in a committed romantic relationship.

 

If you're willing to continue reading, let me explain each part.