some things i've learned: notes from becoming a better version of myself

"Getting older sucks. You'll see. I didn't feel that way at your age either..." The first time I heard this, I had just turned 30, and I've been hearing it ever since. Well, now I'm 60, and I still don't agree.

I don't hate aging. I don't fear it. I embrace it. 

There are definitely downsides -- and advanced old age can be a terror for many. But the older we get, the better we understand ourselves, the more we know what we want out of life and can focus on how to achieve that. Growing older -- that is, continuing to live -- gives us more opportunity to become a better version of ourselves.

To reinforce this belief, I've always done a kind of mental and emotional stock-taking, a reflection on what I've been learning. Some of the learning was intentional: tackling a mental habit that was causing unhappiness, working on relationships, and the like. Much was in response to lessons life threw at me.

I dug out some old notebooks, and decided to share what I found with wmtc readers. I've organized them by decades of life. And just for fun, I added in italics major life changes as they occurred. I've also omitted a few changes that I deemed too personal for this blog. (I do have boundaries!)

I was thinking I might use something like Piktochart to make this into a timeline.


The biggest project of my 20s was separating from an abusive parent. I did this through therapy, hard work, and steely resolve, with the support of my partner and my other parent. 

Also in my 20s:

Realizing with certainty that I didn't want children

Owning my identity as a writer

Left full-time work; began writing fiction

Began living with my partner

Adopted our first rescue dogs

Writing: young-adult fiction

Paid work: childcare, proofreading, plus many short stints doing other things (data entry, personal assistant to an artist, probably six other things I've forgotten)

Activism: grassroots pro-choice group


In my 30s, I consciously stopped spending time with people just for something to do. Life's too short (and too busy) to spend it with people that bore you and with whom you can't be fully yourself.

It was a big decade:

Owning my writing process, proving myself (to myself) as a writer

Coming out as a rape survivor

Realizing my potential as an activist 

Transforming my relationship into full adulthood: embracing radical acceptance

Recognizing myself on the eating disorder spectrum

Recognizing all-or-nothing thinking

Moved from Brooklyn to Washington Heights

Health issues; finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia

Writing: magazine features, educational videos, teen "high-low" nonfiction, monthly column

Activism: youth centre; public speaking about sexual assault

Paid work: legal document production; writing. Also teaching at youth centre and alternative high school, part of team organizing a March on Washington


Committing to taking better care of my physical health (late 30s-early 40s) 

Learning to let go of conflicts and disagreements: "the power of walking away"

Learning to ask for and accept help

Reducing or eliminating all-or-nothing thinking

Left New York City

Emigrated to Canada

Writing: children's nonfiction books, magazine features, blogging

Activism: abortion access (Haven); war resisters (War Resisters Support Campaign)

Paid work: legal doc-pro, transcription, writing

Graduate school (late 40s)


Realizing my leadership potential, learning how to be an effective leader

Embracing self-forgiveness

Accepting that PTSD is permanent

Recognizing intergenerational trauma in my original family

Still learning how to ask for and accept help

Completed library degree for career change (early 50s)

Moved to the west coast; relocated to remote community on Vancouver Island (late 50s)

Writing: blogging

Activism: labour, trade unionism

Paid work: library worker, librarian, library manager



I used to imagine there would be a time when I was "done" -- where there would be a final and finished version of myself. Ha! I'm pretty sure that's called death. I wonder what my 60s will bring.

*  *  *  *

One thing I haven't embraced about aging is the covid-related trend of natural hair colour. In fact, I've doubled down on a bolder look with this purply red. My natural dull brown sprinkled liberally with dull gray? No thank you! I'm helping to keep a stylist employed.

I offer this picture of myself as part of some recent and ongoing learning: trying to be less camera-shy.


Amy said...

You look wonderful. I have embraced the gray and love it. Mine is more silver with the dark brown I've always had, and I don't miss getting my hair colored at all.

Your inventory is thought-provoking. I can't believe I've known you through two of those decades (almost---since 2007). And, of course, I've read about some of the earlier changes and challenges also through your blog.

To me, my 20s were about figuring out how to be married and what kind of career I wanted. My 30s were about raising children and becoming part of a community and establishing myself in the career I chose. My 40s were filled with self-doubt---had I made the right choices? Were my kids happy? Was I happy? Fortunately by 50, I found self-acceptance for the most part and stopped worrying about what others thought or having to finish a book I didn't like or struggling with body image (for the most part). The 60s? All about retirement and finding out what gives me joy when I don't have to work. Enjoying my kids and grandkids, volunteering with children, writing and researching family history, traveling and being outdoors, and being with the guy I married back in my early 20s. Next year I turn 70---stay tuned...

laura k said...

Thanks for reading and for sharing, Amy.

I notice that your 60s list is what you're doing, not so much what you're learning. Maybe it's too soon to see that. Or maybe you are done! :)

Amy said...

Oh, I think what I've been learning is how to find joy---didn't I say that? Also how to deal with the body issues that come with aging. But mostly finding joy!

mkk said...

Thank you for posting this! I was glad to be able to remember those decades with you, from my perspective (as I have known you since you were 13 years old), and to appreciate your reflections. Reading about your journey has also inspired me to think about my own, though I will not be so bold as to write about it publicly.

laura k said...

Thank you mkk, and especially for cross-posting! :) We have been family for a very long time, and friends for all that time too.

I'm glad this post was thought-provoking for you. That is always my purpose in writing.

mkk said...

Laura, I an so glad that we are both family and friends! Love you!

tornwordo said...

Sounds like a generous path you’ve led. We do indeed get better with age don’t we?

With God's Help said...

Thankful to have known you for one of the decades of your life and I look forward to more. To me you have been a strong role model of a self-confidenct woman who knows who she is and "suffers no fools."

I will be doing more thinking about my own decades. It's time to stop trying to fix some things, and recognize that I may need to find a way to coexist with some issues and give them less attention.

laura k said...

Tornwordo, how nice to see you here! I know as someone who embraces life, too. I hope you and S and G are all well. This is a good reminder to check in on Sticky Crows. xo

laura k said...

WGH thank you so much. I'm honoured to be a role model to someone as smart and strong as you! You have also been a role model to me, professionally. I'm still striving to be a librarian and supervisor of your calibre.

Letting go of issues or reducing our focus on them is so challenging. But the payoff is huge, in the mental space it frees up. Wishing you luck on the journey. xo

laura k said...

Mkk love you too! :)

deang said...

That is such a good picture of you!

I feel the same way about growing older. While I don't like the reduced energy and other physical changes, I do like the increased self-awareness and knowledge of others. I feel like I understand people better than I used to as well.

laura k said...

Deang, hello old blog-friend! Thank you very much. :)

I'm glad you also adopt this optimistic view of aging. Cheers to that.