Youth’s Like Diamonds in the Sun


Tina and her boyfriend (now husband) in Pentwater, Michigan – Summer of 2000.

Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself from when you were in your twenties, compared it to a current picture, and tried to figure out where the differences are? I mean, obviously, I was more attractive in my twenties than I am now at 42. But what is it exactly?

I was just looking at an old picture of my husband and myself from 18 years ago, trying to figure out why we looked so damn good back then. I really analyzed it. Was it the tone of our skin? The space between our eyelids and eyebrows? The tautness of our jawlines?

Of course, it’s all those things, at least a little bit. As we get older, skin sags. Wrinkles settle in. Age spots pop up. But those microscopic differences, even when added together, don’t account for the difference. No, it’s something else. It’s a look in the eyes. There is something wild in the eyes of a twenty-five-year-old. There’s freedom. Lust. Rebellion. Possibility. Dreams. Infinity.

That’s why plastic surgery never really works. No matter what you fill and plump, no matter what you relax and smooth, you can’t get that look back. You know too much. When I look at a current photo of myself, I see a practiced smile. I look in my own eyes and I see resolution. I see experience. I see retirement savings and a comprehensive health care plan. I’m grateful to have those things, but it also means I’ve realized I’m not going to live forever. And that I don’t want to.

The thing is, I don’t want to be 25 again. Not really. I remember how much it sucked to be poor. I remember all the times I was lonely. I remember wondering if life would ever get better.

It did get better.

I have enough now, for the most part. I have enough money. I have a husband I love who loves me. I have comfort and security.

So, why does it feel like I have less freedom now than I did 20 years ago? I have a lot more money. I work less and have more free time. I don’t have children, so that’s not an issue. I have more freedom in all the tangible ways someone can have freedom. I have means, that is. I have the means to freedom.

What I no longer have now, that I had then, is fearlessness. That’s real freedom, isn’t it? Freedom is doing what you want without worrying about what anyone else thinks. Freedom is hitting the road to stay with your friends at a beach house without knowing whether you’ll have a bed to sleep in. Freedom is getting in the car without knowing where you’re going.

Today, I wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without my destination programmed into my smartphone’s GPS. If I’m taking a beach vacation, I’m going to research hotels far in advance to make sure I get the best possible deal on a king-sized bed with an ocean view. I’ll pack sunscreen. (Better late than never.)

I don’t really want to be 25 again, but I wouldn’t mind looking 25 again. I wouldn’t mind looking like that girl in the picture. I work out more than she did. I eat better. I can afford to visit my dermatologist and get a little Restylane here and there. It might be time to add a touch of Botox too.

But the look in the eyes? I’m going to have to work on that on my own.