Our culture dictates how we think about who we are. And age is everything.

It’s apparent in almost every industry.

The beauty industry tells us anti-aging is the only option we have. We wash, exfoliate, moisturize, apply serums and gels and oils, undergo botox and plastic surgery. Wrinkles be gone!

It’s okay for men to age gracefully. They look better with time, take on a dignified look with fine lines and gray hair. Women, not so much.

In a recent New York Times Opinion piece, a chart from OkCupid showed that as women age, they are attracted to men roughly their same age. Men on the other hand are attracted to twenty year olds, no matter what their age.

Is that realistic? Not in the slightest.

Is it advertising’s fault? Is it media’s fault? Is it Hollywood’s fault? Maybe a little of all of the above?

When did this become our definition of “perfection”? When did we decide that twenty year old women have it all and it’s all downhill from there?

Cultures around the world have a completely different take on aging. Not every culture sees age as something that’s bad.

This weekend I watched Paris Can Wait with Diane Lane, I’m a big fan. And anything that showcases a ride through the French countryside, showcases good food, good wine – and chocolate – is a winner in my eyes. It’s a movie with a fun look at midlife, the choices we make and what it takes to give us a new zest for life – and what we’re willing to trade in once we get there.

They touched on many different things that spark reinvention at midlife, things we all face at one time or another.

Like new career choices. In the movie, the main character Ann is forced to rethink her business plans when her partner makes a lifechange of her own.

Or living with an empty nest. Ann is happy her daughter is doing well at college, but you feel the emotional pull she goes through when her daughter texts she won’t be home for her birthday, instead choosing to spend it with friends from school.

Or trying to get closer to a spouse that may not have the same goals in mind, leaving her wide open to reevaluate when someone else shows interest.

What awakens us? What causes us to rethink everything and start over with new fervor and pizzazz?

When we look only at age, we miss the beauty within. We miss all the trials and tribulations, experiences and expectations that have made us who we are. Beauty comes from living every single day and experiencing every single moment of our lives. It ads up and turns us into the beautiful souls we become.

Too frequently, we look at those days and hours and minutes as darkness, as something that defines every ounce of our being. But what if it was merely a way to guide us to what’s next?

“There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen

Light’s good. It feeds us. It nourishes us. It gives us the energy to move forward, one step at a time.