About a decade ago, I decided that the future me would accept the grey hairs and wrinkles and advancing age because I wanted to embrace each stage of my life without thinking that a stronger, funnier, prettier version of me lay buried in the past. Of course, aging—like life—has not gone quite as I had anticipated as a young woman dreaming about her future, nor has it been a linear journey with distinct boundaries marking the transitions. The aches and pains of senescence have surely arrived decades too soon, but arrive they have, just like a few errant grey hairs and a pronounced wrinkle on my face.
The wrinkle caught me by surprise. It seemed to have crept up on me until one day, as I glanced in the mirror, I briefly wondered when I had cut myself and left such a slantwise scar upon my chin. After noticing its existence, the wrinkle seemed shockingly prominent, and I marveled that I hadn’t discerned it before.
I did feel a momentary flare of annoyance at this wrinkle’s audacity (I’m 32!), but then I did what I normally do when I scrutinize my reflection: I made a series of increasingly ridiculous faces until I burst into laughter. In that moment of mirth, I smiled, and my wrinkle flattened and melted away into the cheerful folds of my face. Puzzled, I smiled, didn’t, frowned, smiled, didn’t, frowned. Then, I smiled much more broadly. This wrinkle was not a sign of age or fading youth, but a sign of the happiness I have found in my life. This wrinkle across my face was not something to lament, but to celebrate!
The happiness wrinkle demonstrably shows that despite the aches and tears, I have found so much joy in my life that my skin remembers the imprints of laughter during every moment of the day, even the dark ones. As I face uncertainty about my health and my future, I feel some solace knowing that I will always have a ghost of a smile and and a recognizable instinct toward laughter and joy in whatever next comes my way.