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My laugh lines are deep. The skin under my eyes is softer and wrinklier and starting to sag. So are most of my other body parts. There are weird coarse black hairs that occasionally grow out of my chin now. And, if I weren’t blond(ish), I’d be gray.

Some weight has crept on and, clearly, plans on clinging to me for life. As of late, my body is revolting against my usual 19-hour days and is now demanding more rest time.

Aging sucks.

And, yet, I’ve realized it’s offers women a few really valuable consolation prizes: wisdom, a #ZFG attitude, and freedom from beauty standards.

In the midst of a meltdown over something the other day—a bad grade, a bad hair day, who knows?—my 14-year-old daughter cried, “Why can’t I just be perfect? I just want to be perfect.”

I snorted, laughed, and cynically said, “There’s no such thing.”

I said that because I’m a 44-year-old woman who knows that perfection is a grand illusion, beauty is temporary, and grades don’t mean shit in the real world.

Try explaining that to a teenage girl who desperately wants to keep her position on the honor roll, won’t do anything that might make her standout, and would give her left arm to turn her goddess-thick wavy blonde hair into the thin, pin-straight dark hair that all the cool girls have today.

How can I explain what took me three decades to learn?

The cool girls are terrified. Grades aren’t a measure of intelligence. That fitting in means fading out and dulling your shine.

At 44, I’ve never been more comfortable with my imperfect, often contradictory self. Whatever I am today, I own it. And I do not care what anyone else thinks. I know they’re not thinking about me anyway. We’re all pretty self-centered that way.

At 44, I  like who I am — wrinkles, saggy skin, black chin hairs (OK,  I actually hate those), spare tire, and all.  I don’t need you to like me because I like me.

At 44, I don’t have to try so hard anymore, and I realize now that I never did.

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About Just Write: Just Write is my adaptation of free writing, a technique in which a person writes continuously and quickly without little regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. It helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and explore everything from meaningful topics to mundane observations with the same effort and without the pressure of crafting perfect prose. I just start writing.

“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”