Being grateful for aging is often equated with being grateful to be alive. Many people have pointed out that being able to complain about aging is to a gift. (Not that complaining about aging is helpful.) Being alive is certainly a gift, but getting older has more to offer. We have so much more to be grateful for.

Perspective on what matters

Think about how a toddler might start screaming over not being able to have the green crayon absolutely right this minute. It takes many years to learn how to deal with life’s challenges and that crayon is just the beginning. Ever had someone older than you tell you that “this too shall pass”? Just hearing that doesn’t work. You have to actually feel it pass yourself and that takes time. Only after years of experience do we learn how not to sweat the small things, and most importantly, which things are actually important. Being grateful for aging includes gratitude for gaining perspective.

Soft skills & uncommon sense

Soft skills are a big topic in the workforce. These are the things we know how to do because we have lived and worked with other people for a long time, like how to communicate effectively and to work in a team. Think about how much common sense has really come from experience, not instinct. (Ever made any cringe-worthy missteps in your teen years? Perhaps borrowing the car without asking made that fender-bender an even worse offense in your parents’ eyes.) It takes time and experience to become a useful, functional adult and our capacity for growth does not end at a certain age. Let’s be grateful that we continue to grow better at playing well with others.

Growing up & growing relationships

Then there are our deeper relationships. Loving and living with other human beings is hard. Learning to be a good friend and partner involves heartbreak after heartbreak, both the ones we experience and the ones we cause. We have to live through those things to know how to love and be lovable. As well as giving us time to grow as empathetic people, age can also bring us our deepest relationships, the people who really know us. Aging gives us the time and life experience to create relationships with real meaning.

Not your first rodeo

Many things about being young are wonderful.  However, youth was not all great. It can be nice to have been there and done that. We can be grateful for having accomplished certain things and being done with others. Early adult life can be like a dive into the middle of the ocean. Comfort and security look so far away. We face one new adulting challenge after another – first job, first loan, first time finding a place to live, first time finding a relationship that could have lifelong potential – so many firsts that have big consequences. But since then, we have grown careers, raised families, survived health issues, lived through conflict. Gratitude for aging is also an appreciation of we have accomplished, seen and survived.

Passing it all on

We each leave a legacy. We have impact on everyone who knows us. Aging gives us the chance to pass on what we know, to help those we care about who are less far along in the journey. It is gratifying to be able to help others and as we age, we have something unique to offer. We can’t teach things we haven’t learned and it took us this long to learn some things. We can lead by example, living our values, and, ultimately, living on through those we care about.

You can have gratitude for aging not only because you are not dead. Carl Jung said, “Life really does begin at 40. Up to then, you are just doing research.” Being older is a time to be grateful as all that research pays out.

Sara Breindel, Changing the Narrative blogger