The first one didn’t bother me when I found it in the mirror a few months ago. It was a fluke, I assured myself—a trick of the poor lighting, my imagination, perhaps even a very blonde hair. (Remember, I’m someone who doesn’t believe something until it’s inarguably in front of my face.) I summarily pulled the single gray strand out by the root and thought no more of it.
And then, last week, the second one showed up. And this one bothered me, more than the first one had. In the same way that being 31 bothered me a tiny bit more than being 30— “in my 30s” was worse, and finding gray “hairs” was infinitely worse.
It was undeniably gray, sprouting right from the line of my part on my scalp, in the most noticeable and obvious place on my head. I’m not sure why it offended me so. I haven’t lived under the delusion of immortality for many years; before my junior year of college, I’d lost two close friends—to cancer and a drunk driver. I’ve been well aware for a couple of decades now that we all come to an end someday, often sooner than expected. I thought for a long time that my time would come sooner than expected.
Perhaps that’s why the gray hair is so foreign and wrong to me… You see, I spent the first half of my 20s firmly convinced that I would die at 25. I never had any inkling why I thought this, never had a vision about what would cause my demise, but I was filled with a growing certainty that my future would be relatively short. Perhaps it was just my irresponsible way of excusing my typical 20s stupidity—too many late nights, not enough sleep, not enough exercise, unhealthy diet, etc. I had to fit in as much living as I could, right? My days were numbered. I didn’t need to waste time taking care of myself.
And then the “final” year came and went. My 26th birthday sneaked up on me, and then without any drama it was past and I was still alive. I was rather surprised, as you can imagine. Had I misunderstood the impression I’d had? Was that 25-year milestone merely an approximate end date? I waited, and survived. For many more years, in fact.
Now here I am in my late 30s, feeling the effects of those years I’ve accumulated and finding gray hairs, plural. Me, who wasn’t even supposed to make it into my 30s. Me, who now, suddenly, must take care of myself and eat right and try to exercise more and appreciate each day.
I’m pretty glad I was wrong. Think of all I would have missed—not just these pesky gray strands, but also my husband, my child, my salvation and the opportunities to make things better around me. I hope I can always see those gray hairs as silver—the silver lining of being given more time than I’d anticipated.