In my former life/career, I was the Special Sections Coordinator in the Features Department at the Erie Times-News where I frequently wrote columns for both the “Good Morning” section and the Sunday Lifestyle page.

I loved writing columns. It was a chance to get really creative, get things off my chest, make a point, share an observation, bring attention to someone or something that deserved it, or just connect with the readers.

There were times that column writing was excruciating, like if I was on deadline and didn’t have a clue what to write about. But, for the most part, it was my favorite thing to do, and I almost always had nuggets of ideas squirreled away in my head that I could pull out and mold into something thought-provoking, wistful, or funny.

I was searching the newspaper’s online website today to find a link to a freelance story I just wrote for them and I stumbled across a few of my old columns and, at the risk of sounding conceited, I thought…wow, these are pretty good.

Now, technically, this content belongs to the Erie Times-News, but I’m guessing they won’t mind if I occasionally run one of my old columns here & there. We’re still friends. This girl does not burn bridges (well, I’ve torched one or two, but never with former employers).

So…enjoy this vintage Heather Cass column pulled from the archives of April 25, 2010 — a mere 5 years ago — when I had an epiphany on the 3rd floor of the YMCA.

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I was sweating through a lunchtime BodyPump workout at the Downtown YMCA when I caught a glimpse of my profile. I was mid-squat with a barbell on my upper back and noticed that the backs of my legs were not nearly as taut as they once were.

You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought.

I run 30-plus miles a week, I spend my lunch hours pumping iron, I spend my evenings chasing around after the kids and I’ve actually got fat on the backs of my legs? This is so unfair.

And then, in a moment of clarity, I realized I’m not going to win this one. No matter how fast I run, how much weight I lift or how many hours I spend at the gym, I can’t outrun the inevitable effects of aging and gravity.

Lyrics from Bob Seger’s song “The Fire Inside” ran through my head: “Then it comes to you how it all slips away. Youth and beauty are gone one day.”

At 38 years old, I knew I was on my way up the hill; I just didn’t expect to crest it and start rolling down overnight.

There were lots of clues, of course. The deepening laugh lines, the daughter who’s nearly as tall as me, the 20-year high school reunion invitation — they all signaled that I was no longer the 28-year-old I still thought I was in my head.

But, until that moment in BodyPump class … until that fateful sideways glance in the mirror, I never felt old.

Long ago, I made a promise to myself to embrace aging gracefully, to welcome the wrinkles, gray hair and softer belly that were in my future.

Just last year, in fact, I wrote a Good Morning column about how much I was looking forward to getting older because all my friends in their 40s and 50s were having a blast and living life to its fullest.

Truly, I’m looking forward to those promised years when I’ve already climbed the ladder, sent the kids off to college and once again have time to hang out with my husband, read books and travel.

But, now that it’s actually happening, this aging thing is going to be much harder for me to deal with than I ever thought, if only because there’s simply nothing that can be done about it.

Sure, the fitness, beauty and pharmaceutical industries would have us believe there’s plenty we can do about it. They’ve made millions helping people “fight” the effects with Rogaine, Viagra, Retin-A cream, etc.

But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to pick my battles and accept that which can’t be changed.

I cannot change the fact that my body is starting to show the signs of aging, but I can change the way I feel about it.

Those “older” friends of mine — the ones who run half marathons, jump off cliffs and have overnight camp outs — they are some of the most beautiful women I know, figuratively and literally.

So perhaps the battle here isn’t with wrinkles or flab, but with my own mind. With a little help from my friends, that’s a fight I stand a chance of winning.

2010

The Cass Clan circa 2010