I’ve spent most of my life wishing to be old. Living my youth with eyes fixed on the future. Even deep in the throes of the teenage and college years, as I stumbled into mistakes and moments when I came home barefoot in the morning with a “Spank This” t-shirt and men’s sweatpants on that smelled like weed and had holes in the knees, I knew that this would be temporary. This girl who seldom wore bras, drank wine out of chipped coffee mugs, and wasn’t shy about making out with a guy against the wall of a bar, apartment building, or church—was just temporarily young. Momentarily stupid. I’ve been partying through my adolescence with the white-haired, wrinkly-faced vision of myself keeping me warm at my side.
Women are often taught to fear aging. We’re told to revel in our young, beautiful years and take precautions, pills, creams, or injections to keep it going at all costs. There are benefits to youth. At 24, I’m grateful to wake up without aches and pains, happy that I still have decades of life ahead of me, and pleased to have the energy and drive of a young person. However, none of these perks have anything to do with appearance. I refuse to let the impending thought of sagging skin or not getting stared at by guys stop me from looking forward to getting old. I like wrinkles and don’t like unwanted male attention anyway, so it’s all looking up. There are so many other things in my future to think about without worrying if my crow’s feet will make me look undesirable.
I have the tendency to doodle on my hands and wrists. One of the doodles ultimately takes the shape of a shark, generally on my left wrist. I can’t remember when this started; it’s been a habit for years. The shark always looks the same: three gills, one angry eye, and a mouth agape with jagged teeth. These drawings might just be a quirk of my 20s. Maybe I won’t be adorning my body with black ink sharks when I’m 50. But I might be.
Sharks can only move forward. A bull shark isn’t concerned with the tears in its cartilage or scars on its dorsal fin that it’s accumulated throughout the years. It’s just swimming on. Maybe this is why I’m constantly drawing them on my skin. I feel a connection with their deliberate, future-focused ways. Or maybe I just like sharks. But with my mind always aching for what’s next, I can’t help but respect an animal with the same preoccupation. No reversing in the ocean.