10 Things We Let Go of As We Age

February 19, 2023 at 12:54 p.m.

As we grow older, many of us began to realize what matters and what doesn’t.

A recent article by Melanie Allen looked at the question, through a Reddit.com survey, of what becomes less important as we age.
Here are the top responses:

  • What Others Think

“Why do we care so much about what others think, especially when we’re younger,” asks Allen. Being true to yourself becomes more important as we grow older rather than molding ourselves around what others think. One responder to the survey sites social media as one of the culprits of why what others think is so important to young folks. But let’s face it, wanting to fit in with the crowd has been a hallmark of childhood – especially adolescence – long before social media. Peer pressure exerts a powerful influence. This desire lingers for many into adulthood, but – thankfully – we can often put it behind us as we grow older. “Life is short. Be true to yourself.”

  • Stuff We Can’t Control

We can’t control all that we’re faced with in life, and we are bombarded with news that we can’t control. The article concludes that as people grow older, they often begin the live the concept of the serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” We must try not to live in constant anxiety about the things we can’t control, states Allen. “Instead, focus on making your life – and the lives and causes of those you care about – better.

  • Celebrating Birthdays

Birthdays used to be the day set aside each year to celebrate yourself, but many responders to the survey said it’s become less exciting and more exhausting with each passing year. One responder sarcastically said, “Ohhh thanks for the socks and the underwear. And the Walmart birthday cake that I had to pick up myself on the way home.” Another remarked, “It’s just a reminder that I’m getting older.” But celebrating the grandkids’ birthdays? Heaven. Perhaps instead of saying you’re another year older at each birthday, you should recognize that another birthday means you are living longer. “It beats the alternative.”

  • Competitiveness

Most of the survey respondents to this question were young-ish adults, and talked about leaving the competitiveness of video gaming behind them. But according to research, it, the idea of competitiveness, or comparing yourself to others, diminishes as we age. “Many studies have found that people become calmer and less neurotic as they age…a ‘quieting of emotional storms.’”

  • Being Cool

This is an offshoot of the first item – what others think of us. According to the survey, as we age, we realize that being cool doesn’t matter. “One of the most liberating things about getting older is that you can just do your own thing without caring if it’s trendy or not.” The author agrees, and says that the key to living a life of fulfillment is finding your own path and doing what you love, regardless of what others think.” Some of the keys to living a fulfilling life include practicing gratitude, forgiveness, self-reflection, mindfulness, be kind, help others (while at the same time setting boundaries), laugh often, engaging with friends and family, … “Stop and smell the flowers.”

  • Possessions

While downsizing can be a difficult, emotional and time-consuming affair, letting go of possessions has been shown to offer a sense of freedom, of “unburdening” oneself. “The older I get, the less important material possessions become to me,” said one respondent.

  • Careers

Many older adults defined themselves by their careers and professional ambitions. It can be disorienting to retire from the work-a-day world, leaving that sense of identity behind. Even before they retired, some recognized that climbing the corporate ladder wasn’t the be-all, end-all. “As long as I earn enough to cover my bills – including saving for retirement – and to splurge a little now and then, I’m happy,” said one. But once people lean into their retirement, they often say of their busy lives – “I don’t know how I ever found the time to work!”

  • Family & Friends

Many people realize the value of their family and close friends even more as they grow older. One important distinction is that many say growing older allowed them to leave behind toxic relationships. “…I don’t need the drama.” As we age, we realize that “we get to choose who we hang out with.”

  • Leisure Activities

Many older adults find that retirement allows them to travel, engage in hobbies they never had time for, volunteer in the community, spend more time with family. On the other hand, young folks often want to be out and about, perhaps heading to the nightclubs, catching the latest movies, seeing a live band. “That stuff sounds exhausting as we get older, and many of us prefer quiet nights in,” said one respondent. “This weekend I hung out at home, baked a pie, made crochet lace, read, drank hot chocolate. It was glorious,” offered another.

  • Dressing to Impress

The older we get, the more we value comfort over style. “I hate wearing heels,” said one respondent. Most retirees don’t miss uncomfortable office attire such as suits and ties. They leave heels and pantyhose behind. This doesn’t mean older folks don’t want to feel good in their clothes, but it’s more about what feels good – and comfortable – to them and less about adhering to norms.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that getting older isn’t at all bad. Letting go of the worries of youth is liberating. In fact, studies show that most people feel happy when they are able to leave behind the uncertainties of youth,  and the stresses of career and raising a family.  In general, older folks have more of a sense of themselves. They have more time to follow their own distinct path to self-determination and happiness.

How about you…what have you left behind?

Share this story!

Latest Stories

Computer Lingo
On some medical portal, I could use the name I gave my childhood canary and that’s okay

Easter Chicks
I also like the way they hold their heads up high and survey my passing in an almost regal way

Considering a Move?
Letting go of possessions – some associated with treasured memories – can be difficult

Fresh herbs - Freshness is essential in the Northwest
With spring in the air in the Northwest, fresh herbs add a blast of flavor to heart- and kidney-healthy foods.

Growing Herbs in Containers
Keep your favorite herbs within easy reach for cooking and seasoning by growing them in containers