Fifty-five was once the national speed limit, but now it is my age. It may sound like a personal joke, but I’m not laughing. It is not funny that the speed limit of my life keeps going up.

Age snuck up on me like a speedometer when I wasn’t watching until a police car’s red lights flash in the rearview mirror. I imagine the officer asking me where was I going and my reply, “I’m trying to get to this place,” and he says, “You passed it.” Then he gives me a warning ticket that reads: “Speeding through your life without enjoying it can be hazardous to your happiness. Just cruise.”

Don’t believe anyone who says these are your golden years. Your golden years are when you’re younger and dumber, not older and a little smarter. Dumb can get away with a lot. The years don’t get easier, and I am looking at fewer of them.

“I could have done more with my life” is a game I don’t play. What’s the point? My life is what I’ve made it. This past year was filled with many small things, and a few truly life changing ones. As much as I despise admitting it, I matured. Ouch!

Being 55 brought some of the worst times I’ve ever felt, yet it taught me some of life’s most valuable lessons. Here’s the main one — I am not alone. I have people in my life. Where did they come from? Most are too good to be true — genuine and so kind with overwhelming generosity that it often blinds me with tears of gratitude. The best part of aging is experiencing how much I am loved, and at times feeling unworthy.

A Facebook quiz asks questions to determine your real age. Several of my friends posted their results: the 24-year-old was 29 and the 29-year-old was 32. My age was 26. When I posted the test result, my friends’ responses surprised me: “That’s what we love about you, Val. You stay young.”

A major benefit to this age is receiving 10 percent discounts from retailers. I get to be that 55-year-old kid for 10 percent less, or maybe 20 percent when I raise my voice one octave and call people “sweetie.” The other benefit is I am kinder to myself and less critical of me. I’ve become my own best friend. That’s nice.

So I get to drive on the road of life for a while longer. It doesn’t matter how long because sadly I’ve been on it longer than many of my friends and family. However, I am going a little slower.

I still have no idea where I am going, but I don’t want or need to know anymore.

Valerie L. Valdez is a Herald correspondent.

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