Karen Osborne

Karen Osborne

The other day, I was invited to play my violin with a real band at a live music festival. It’s an aspiration I’ve had since freshman year of high school, and it’s pretty high on my bucket list. Excited, I immediately started texting my musician friends from back then to tell them the good news.

As always, I wished I could have texted my good friend Tovah, who was my high school orchestra partner in crime, but I couldn’t. Tovah died in 2005, and I still miss her.

I think of all the crazy things she hasn’t been able to do because of that dark night and the icy patch and the tree into which she crashed. Smartphones. Birthday parties. Our friends’ weddings. Trips to the coast and hugs and crazy presidential elections and sunsets. Concerts and ice cream. Happy news from friends. Tovah would have loved Instagram.

As the Internet meme says, “Getting old isn’t easy, but it beats the alternative.”

A lot of people are scared of getting older. Recently, noted Broadway actress Sutton Foster told an entire concert hall that she had just turned 40 and needed to think about taking older roles, which are few and far between. For an actress, that’s a scary thought.

Tovah often talked about the same thing. She had been scared of not succeeding as a professional violist. What would happen in the future? I wish she’d had an opportunity to find out.

So, yes, growing older can be pretty scary, especially when you’re looking at turning 18, going to college and striking out on your own. Growing older means that you lose the familiarity of high school and the support structures that you’ve had, such as clubs, teachers and smiling faces.

You start getting bills. You start getting responsibilities. You’ll notice one day that you’re not familiar with the singers on the pop music radio station. You’ll notice that the world is changing. It gets bigger (a lot bigger).

Whenever I get scared of the future, I think about Tovah. Whenever I get frightened that I’m not going to be successful or feel anxious about all of the changes going on around me, I think about how change isn’t the end of the world. Every day offers a new opportunity. And that’s an exciting thought, not a scary one.

Our youth-obsessed culture would like teens to believe that getting older means that your life is over, and that nothing will ever be as good again. But getting older is really about getting better, about getting more chances to pursue your dreams and getting things right, about being able to help more people, about becoming the person you’re dreaming of becoming. Seen through that lens, getting older is awesome.

Getting older means you get to see the new movies. It means you’ll get to travel, have a family, make your own money and have your own place. You could run for president or start a company. You can even practice an instrument long enough and hard enough to land a slot in a music festival.

Right after Sutton Foster confessed that she was getting older, she sang a tune meant for an older voice and an older actress. It’s a great song, but you can’t really nail it, or understand it, until you’re no longer young. She absolutely killed it and received a standing ovation.

Learn from that moment. Don’t let the future scare you. Instead, let it inspire you. Change is going to happen. You’re going to get older. That’s a fact. It doesn’t have to be a negative one. It may mean that you’ll get better.