This year I will be turning 39. As my grandfather referred to himself numerically during his later years, though, I will be "in my 40th year". Yikes. Realistically, it's a number before it's any indicator of anything personal or the accomplishments of life that society finds necessary at particular ages, but think about it - I'm almost 40 so I should have 2.5 kids, my own home, a career with a long and reliable trajectory (hahahahahah). I have the home! Ryan has 3 kids so thankfully he got the other half of that awkward .5, but I have never wanted to have kids, and I'm too fickle/curious/distracted/passionate for a single-track career. I've been this way since I was a kid, too, but society wants me to have the entirety of my life neatly arranged by 30, and to have had the years of ages 18 to 29 lead up to that ultimate goal. Once you're 18 you have to know, and once you're 30 you've got to have it, according to America's playbook.
You know that's capitalism, right? Capitalism baked heavy-handed with ingredients like marketing and advertising and economic incentive, dividing and conquering and controlling. It's the Man, and it's basura. That's the cool thing about nearly 40, though, I know some shit now, I've lived through enough years on this planet and interacted with other earthlings in different ways enough to see how the system screws everyone of us at different ages. My Elder Millennial self and my Boomer parents? Same system. It starts to spread into subtle differences and appear in new and horrifying ways in the information age, but throughout all our national maneuvers toward progress, the system of Capitalism has been driven forward as we've continued to reinforce it.
I say this here in the paranormal sphere of our website because something has happened. For all but 1.5 years or so, I have been a woman smashed into paranormal social media for just over the last decade. It's been long enough that I've finally realized what time can do to the Weird and the people like myself who publicly share it on the internet.
2 things, really:
People will come and go, start and stop, be there and then gone, a lot. Teams, individuals, brands, even places. There isn't a category of person involved in the paranormal that is exempt, and it happens for any and every reason. After this amount of time it's just a bizarre realization to have watched it happen. Without the visible and public aspect to it all, I'd still be viewing the same desktop forums and websites (shoutout to ghostvillage.com, you OG, Jeff), that I was viewing before I owned a hand computer named after a fruit and connected to billions of people. The rise and fall of paranormal players is real. "Nothing gold can stay."
Age matters. It matters in a distinct way for women in and out of the paranormal. Age is inseparable from the social architecture we've been maintaining for the systems of capitalism and patriarchy to remain in place. These systems were built centuries before us, but they created wounds that bleed forever into our present, and as of now, into our foreseeable future. This isn't new information to most people, it's just a realization within myself and my own age and how my public presentation/acceptance/worth is effected within the public paranormal community.
To begin with, the start and stop of so many people in the paranormal, authentic investigators and entertainers both, is not very absurd or as profound as the second factor. It's the age thing that's unreasonably brutal, and I'm a woman so this one is a shot to the gut. A line from Rebecca Jennings' 2020 article in Vox was poignant: "It’s...impossible to talk about the fear of aging without talking about the precise terror that it represents for women. Our worth is inseparable from our youth, so much so that embracing the effects of time is considered a radical act." The agency and worth of women wane as we increase in age. This speaks to women outside of any niche interest or community, but within the paranormal and the spiritual, witchcraft and horror communities where all those interests intersect, it's just as apparent. One would assume that the older the person is, the more they would be respected for all they've gained in years of experience, and many times that does happen, but that's not the design. That's not the system.
After being present for over a decade of paranormal social media and having a public presence on the internet, I see where the peak is climbed and attained easier than ever before, and where real value is or isn't when that social peak is crossed. What I've noticed too is that with age I gain more of a sense of contentment, and fully realized, valued relationships are worked on with intent and purpose. The wide amalgam of friends dwindle to the most authentic, important and closest. There's no need to waste energy on anyone that doesn't directly impact myself and my work. I feel no obligation to peripheral people who've circulated around me for years in order to "keep up appearances" or "play nice." We teach kids to "play nice with others", now it's more like "no need to engage".
What's sad though, is that I'm only 38 and I'm seeing this playing out, that's the brutality and omnipresence of the social systems we're cogs in the machine of. However, as much as I can see my youth and my value tied intrinsically together, and see it working its way into lesser available spaces for me as I age, I see the other side. The insight, the knowledge gained, books read, places visited, experiences had, people met, worldviews and perspectives expanded, imploded, and built again. I love to write and I don't even have the words to articulate the delight in all of these things adding up and expounding upon each other. There's a reverence in the passage of years when they form a foundation of understanding instead of ego. The other thing is that the sense of comfort in the unknown that I like to talk about too much - I'd never be able to have that in my 20's. Certainly not with the people I had around me in my late 20's, that was a rough time. I hadn't lived enough to know. I didn't have these years and their lessons.
Full disclosure, sometimes life's lessons are wretched. They're full of narcissists, liars, haters, takers, the creepy kind of weirdos, jealous jerks, users, abusers, grifters and the ever-present general twats. Terrible teachers, valuable lessons. I'd have to reassess (and should) every now and again on what I've learned from all the dicks out there, but when I say I'm keeping this within the paranormal, I do mean that all those nasty people are absolutely to be found within this community. It's even been considered that the paranormal at large is a vacuum for some of the worst types of people due to the very pliable nature of its unknownness. A person can take any portion of the paranormal and effectively exploit it, and others, unfortunately.
It's been a *rich* experience being a woman in the paranormal, especially now being 38 and a decade into paranormal social media and being in public online spaces. The outward visibility of my worth is tied to my youth, my appearance, and how I can mask or create an illusion of, or at least produce a perception of that youth. There is no way around this aspect of society and publicity, but I believe there is a way through. It ties in with the first thing I mentioned, the come and go nature of so many people involved in the paranormal. The way through is remaining present in the purpose of the endeavor. Walking the same road as always, and as one goes, some people pop up and then fall away into the shrubs never to be seen again, but I'm still right here in stride next to Ryan. We're moving forward in what we do in the paranormal with a closer, wiser, trusted circle of those who are Very Weird. It's like realizing the portion of the race that involves sprinting is over, and now it's a comfortable pace without the distractions of unnecessary competition or overt societal expectations. The creation and the actions of what we do, and how we remain curious and experiment and move forward in the paranormal, have always been the most important aspect. Now they're simply less and less clouded by peripheral noise. We've established ourselves, we have a clear message and a groundwork that's been built on authenticity and transparency since the start.
My age being a worth-based calculator becomes something I have less thought and less time to give to. Barring any medical circumstances, we all age at the same pace, and my number happens to be 38 right now. I don't necessarily need to swipe open Instagram and post a filter-less photo of my under-eye duffle bags in radical protest to The Man, but I do not feel the same sense of necessity in being exactly what I know others expect or want, and that's really peaceful. Being able to better assess where true value lies in the people, concepts, places, ideas and work being done in the paranormal is a process that takes time and still remains fluid. That's what these years of being here in it all and being a public person has given me. It's focusing on those values that fuel the important parts of one's life.
The paranormal road has a lot of sprinters, walkers, meanderers, curious bystanders and more, joining or leaving the community constantly. I can't do battle with or even make a dent in the patriarchal power structure I exist within as an individual, but Ryan and I are right there on the road with everyone else. We're downright rapidly greying and all four of our knees are audible with particular movements, but we're. Right. Here. There's going to be weak points and places where I question my worth as this road continues, for sure, but stepping into my knowledge, drawing on understanding, admiring those before me and supporting those who come after me are where my true power comes from.
Thanks for reading,
*That capital E in the title was a typo and I left it. I like it.