My dad recently sent me a video from my 15th birthday party. In the video, I blew out the candles in one shot and the kitchen lights turned on to show my bright eyes — which were too big for my petite face — and my long, blonde hair, which is much different than the shorter brown hair I have now. My two high school best friends look like infants as they sing “Happy Birthday” beside me. In a thick Philly accent, my older sister criticizes me for sticking my finger in the cake and licking the icing. Under the video, my dad sent a follow up text: “Time flies!! Enjoy life!!”

My dad’s not wrong. It’s cliché, but life does seem to fly by us without warning. It’s also a challenge to remember every pinnacle moment of joy that we’ve experienced or every person that’s helped us get to where we are now. If he hadn’t sent that video to me, that memory would probably be erased from my mind.

It’s strange to see ourselves at various milestones, like when you look at baby photos and question how you could be that small, or you look at yourself in middle school and try to understand your awkwardness. I think back to that person in my video –– a youthful and pretty 15-year-old with an athletic build, one who just barely understands her rise into womanhood. I was a woman who wasn’t conscious of who she was or how to take care of herself.

Among age, we see the idea of health in various mediums both physically and mentally. As younger people, we feel invincible with our fresh, agile bodies, but as we become older, it seems that we pay more attention to our physical health because of our bodies aging and being more prone to injury or illness. Mentally, we seem to be more cognizant of our mental health as young students, but the urgency to take care of our mentality seems to dissipate as we age. I can’t help but to wonder why health transforms into this funky, indirect proportion as we grow older.

It’s only been six years (psh, only six years) since that video was taken, and while I looked and acted healthy, I seemingly didn’t care about any of it. Most 15-year-olds don’t. When you’re young, you only worry about falling in love and meeting friends and experiencing every bit that life has to offer (and surviving high school, of course). Time goes on, however, and stress becomes more relevant. We take more time to ponder the world and our place in it; with that, our conscious effort to take care of our health becomes another priority lowered down on the list. And to be frank, I just don’t get why.

We’re always told to enjoy our youth while we have it and take care of ourselves before it’s “too late.” Time does fly, but why do we have to despise the latter half of life? I’m worlds away from that girl in the video, and as much as I loved being that age, I love where I’m at now so much more. I know my body and how it works. I know how far my stress can build until I break down. I know more of what I want from myself and out of life. Sure, I’m still a semi-directionless 21-year-old, but I’m more conscious of my health, and I care more about myself.

I want to break this systematic idea that getting older sucks. We should live life for its presence, where we can be conscious of this difficult journey of soul-searching and taking care of ourselves. If we indefinitely love who we are, if we remember to not be so hard on ourselves and if we never take our health for granted, it doesn’t ever have to be too late.

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