Nothing beats getting older. Fuck what society tells us about ageing. Fuck them. Getting older is the best thing in the world. I feel happier at 26 than I ever did at 22. I feel happier and I KNOW myself way more than I did at 18. I  knew nothing. I have learnt so much. Age and experience teaches us extraordinary things. Fabulous things about loss and love and heartbreak and friendship and family. I’ve learnt so much about myself over the last five years. Immense heart break and loss can do that to a person.

In fact, in the last five years I have learnt almost EVERYTHING about myself, and I think I’ll hand that to the pain. The pain forced me to see myself and not anyone else. It forced me to look at myself, to truly unravel my layers from the inside out to uncover what made me who I am, what shaped me. To question: Why am I this way? How can I grow? How can I be happy? What makes me happy? I have done some immense soul searching, because I had no choice. I had to or I would die. And I did it alone.

Mainly when I decided that instead of looking to men for an explanation of who I was, a reflection of who I was, a projection perhaps, I looked at myself. I gave so much to them that there was barely any of myself left. One I was attached to, the other I was tortured by. They were polar opposites, ruling my heart. Everything I did was ruled by them. Every move I made, every single thing I did, I thought of them. I thought of them when I woke up, all throughout the day, when I went to sleep. Most of the time I’d be with them. Where were my thoughts about me? There were barely any. Those thoughts were pushed aside.

There’s nothing more powerful than reclaiming your thoughts, and making them about yourself. About your dreams, hopes for the future, how you can help people, get better as a person. And then, it was only when I started to see outside of myself that I began to feel truly happy. Of course, life ebbs and flows, we all have days where we feel sad and overwhelmed. But with each passing year I feel a growth in myself, an understanding of myself and those around me, something I never had when I was 22.

I hate how society tells us that we will whither away as we get older, especially as women. Apparently we'll become less "desirable", but who the fuck wants to live life just to be attractive. Experiences are what SHAPE us, and experience comes with life. Wrinkles are a sign of that life, a line to say I HAVE LIVED and I have LAUGHED and it has been a ride. So are stretch marks, they are a beautiful sign of growth and of birth. Beauty companies want us to believe we should get rid of every mark on our body that makes us unique, when really we should be embracing and loving them, because they are what make us human.

This is mainly why I photograph my mother. Women her age just aren't depicted enough in the media. Women of ALL ages should be celebrated. I can't wait to grow and learn more about myself with each passing year. Sometimes it is difficult not to succumb to what they tell us: "BEING YOUTHFUL MAKES YOU WORTHY", but I am hoping that as I grow I will continue to accept that what they tell us are "flaws" are really not. Like trees, we are powerful forces of nature.

Words and photographs by Bianca Forte @binky10

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