Navigating the Dreaded Peak

JULIA SERRA | OPINION COLUMNIST

Is it possible that life could be better than this? You are young and beautiful. You see the world with both the innocent eyes of youth and the learned eyes of adults. According to society, as this fades, your happiness will fade with it. As shown by the media, you will become a supporting role: the wise old man or women who helps the young protagonist realize their never-ending future. This concept is absolutely terrifying.

American culture has conditioned us to covet our youth, to believe that our lives are less significant as we grow older. It sucks the vitality out of our twenties as we spend our time pondering how life will go on when our skin is no longer radiant and smooth. It’s hard not to question whether the college phase of life is the proverbial peak. Is it possible that it’s all downhill from here?

Since arriving at St. Norbert, these fears have been on the forefront of my mind. It was Ari Seth Cohen’s documentary “Advanced Style” that led me to realize the triviality of these fears.  The film follows several New York women, all over 60, highlighting not only their incredible senses of style but also their highly-experienced outlooks on life. These women show us that the concept of “peaking” in life is merely a social construct. Society is obsessed with creating definitions in order to maintain some semblance of uniform order. How we approach each day does not depend on how well we fit into the mold we are expected to fit, but rather how we embrace the point in our lives we are at. Age is more of a mindset than a concrete reality.

The women of “Advanced Style” aren’t concerned with the labels the world has thrown at them. They wipe expectations off their embroidered coat-sleeves and embrace the rebellion of simply existing as they please. They seek to live as fully and happily as possible.

80-year-old Joyce Carpati said, “Life gets better. Don’t think about aging.”

She refuses to surrender the self-awareness she has acquired throughout her lifetime. She acknowledges that she is not young, but she also acknowledges that she is not fundamentally changed by the number attached to her. As we age, we choose how we approach our lives. Do we degrade ourselves by becoming a part of the larger social order? Or do we embrace the natural way of aging we are in? This is not the peak of our lives unless we let it be so.

While age is the primary focus of “Advanced Style,” it conveys a message of general non-conformity. We are not images of society; we are individuals. As we go forward in our lives, let’s rebel against the preconceived notions of who we are meant to be.

The women of “Advanced Style” should inspire us to be independent and assertive. Society will tell us to be quiet, to conform. But what good does it do you to grow comfortable with society’s standards? Taking a step outside of what’s expected may seem uncomfortable, but “Advanced Style” proves that when we have control over our own being, our lives will be all the happier. Don’t worry about life losing its luster. It’s the decisions we make that determine our happiness.

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