My aging challenge. Challenged.

I am lucky to be alive. Many people we know will not get the chance to show their “do I still look hot 10 years later” look; yet this online challenge got me thinking of who I am now, rather than what I look like 10 years on. The narrative we’ve been fed about time passing, lives changing and our aging process is deeply flawed. In most cases I see women and men just displaying an exterior change.

But what about the changes that can’t be seen? I’ve often looked back at my younger self, while connecting the dots of my present image and persona, so before I begin the story of these two moments in time, I have to emphasize how little these two pictures mean in the grand scheme of things. My “youth” may be fading, but the experiences I’ve gained over the past 10 years are following a treacherous, deeply challenging, rewarding and thought provoking journey. This is true of anyone looking back at their 10 year’s younger self.

The two women pictured above are not the same person.

Yes of course they are, but I don’t feel or look or carry myself in the same way as the woman I was back in Nov. 2009. These past 9 & 3/4 years have deeply affected, defined and altered my life’s path more than once and have shaped the person I am daring to become today.

November 2009 — Maroussi, Attika Greece

Freshly separated from a nearly 5 year tumultuous and eye opening relationship with a man 13 years her senior. He was an architect, multilingual, smart, witty accomplished, well traveled, talented and a complete asshole to her. Her father loved him. She did not. She was newly single, after an even more difficult breakup, packed up her apartment and moved to her grandmother’s home; now her home. It was a place of wonder and memories.

She molded her childhood memories of it and would live, love, teach, cook, have gatherings with amazing loving friends, dance, practice yoga and sing there for four amazing years. In those four years she would date drug addicts, ex drug addicts, married or otherwise “occupied” men, liars and cheaters and deeply loving people. She would build a small yoga practice and taught throughout the next decade in Europe and the United States. She would cook meals for and with her friends, and host beautiful gatherings. She would travel. She would also face repeated emotional and verbal abuse from her partners, she would fall into a deep depression that was only curtailed by her yoga practice and the faith of her friends. She would have to constantly fight with her family about property and she would have to finally move her whole life back to the US– again, after the financial crisis ripped her country in a thousand pieces. She would have to start over, utterly alone in a city that was only a cut out memory of her long distant past.

July 2018— DUMBO Brooklyn, NYC

Just shy of 10 years later, I’m standing weathered by shit storms and laughter and joy, desperation and happiness. I came out on the other side quite changed, and despite the many scars all for the better. The picture was taken just at the moment when all the struggles, and mistakes, and lessons were finally being revealed. I had a scar from a deep gash on my forehead to remind me that no matter how bad things got, I could still stand taller because I kept going despite the wrong turns and choices. I loved, I was betrayed, I was physically and emotionally challenged, and that year my life truly began to take shape. The puppet strings were cut off and I stopped caring what people thought of me.

My dear parents, my cousin and my trusted friends are and have always been my angels. I cherish them every day for keeping me sane; they didn’t always understand my journey and quite often probably were scared for my well being, but the last 10 years have been a tsunami of ups and downs. A giant shift into becoming the person I always wanted to become, but didn’t have the courage to approach.

I have more lines on my face and tons more gray hair than I will ever show in public (I’m vain among other things). I have more courage to show my body and my art, I don’t shy away from tearing up misconceptions and false facades. Life sent me some amazing teachers. And thank goodness I’ve finally learned my biggest lesson…

I’m grateful to the past 10 years and I keep a jar of anti wrinkle cream on my side of the medicine cabinet, and have toning masks and tweezers with me at all times. White chin hairs are ridiculous and annoying. My muscles hurt more after exercise or yoga practice, but my body is healthier and stronger than ever before. I would kick my old self in the ass in weight & endurance training and I’m a far more patient and capable yoga teacher and wellness practitioner than I was back then.

Aging is a gift. I will not squander time thinking it’s a curse.

I’m still alive, and grateful every day for the opportunity to keep evolving.

onwards.

Eleana Kouneli

A former dancer, and current yoga teacher, curious traveler and wild soul. My fuel and desire is to learn from others and spread healing and joy as I go. Follow my adventures and see where they lead you! All the stories are true, all the poems are real and all the writing is mine. Enjoy

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