Growing old is not what we think it is.
Age is a mental state. How old or young we are depends on our attitude.
To trade a fun carefree lifestyle for one of parenting and understanding health insurance deductibles does not make one old no matter how many revolutions around the sun one has taken. It does require increased wisdom though.
Do we need to make that trade in the first place? Combining them could lead to mental exhaustion, but age brings a wisdom which enables us to learn to create balance. By doing and growing, we learn from our mistakes. That is, unless we aim to eliminate mistakes. That is a true problem. Some of us are so afraid of failure, we’ll tolerate nothing less than perfection. Success is most definitely possible for everyone, but we must drill through failure in order to achieve it. How long we take to do it depends once again on attitude.
We always take daily calculated risks. When we are physically younger, we misunderstand the difference between crazy and stupid. Those of us who survive eventually know that difference, yet we still choose to flirt with the potential disaster that comes from drinking too much or trying to learn skateboarding at a construction site. A more realistic example of this might be families who allow one parent to take on the entire work load while the other desperately hangs onto a youthful lifestyle.
In 2015, I turned 40. As I filter that thought, I’m reminded of when my dad turned 40. I thought to myself, “No, no, no. He was older. He wore ties every day and had neatly combed hair. I still feel young! I wear jeans & T-shirts and my hair looks like I crawled out of bed! I still have earrings and love hard rock music!”
Here are some more interesting things I’ve thought about for all of us born in or around 1975:
- We were born closer to the end of WWII than to now
- The first video games were only concepts and PONG was an infant
- Beta was a thing and VHS was on the way.
- Cable television exploded in popularity. MTV did not exist yet.
- Rotary dial telephones were still available.
- People were still allowed to smoke everywhere and many people did.
- We were kids through the Iran hostage crisis, the shootings of both President Reagan and Pope John Paul II, (does anyone else remember the assassination of Sadat?) and the weird tainted Tylenol scare.
- Remember watching the Wonder Years? That came out in 1988 and we were around the same age as the main character. The show took place 20 years earlier. If that show came out now? It would be 1995-96 and we’d be talking about The Simpsons, Beavis & Butthead, we’d likely have a pager as cell phones were still too expensive, and Bill Clinton would be gearing up for his reelection.
Like many people our age, I still identify myself as a 20-y-o living in an aging body. My dad seemed very much an adult back then and I recall thinking that I’d never let that happen to me, that I’d hang onto my youth forever. Naivety is powerful in the young. My mind seems to work about the same as when I was in college. Well, not really.
In college, I was more likely to actually drive a car over 100 mph than just think about doing it. I was more likely to stay up all night by choice instead of necessity. I was more likely to take my anger out by destroying inanimate objects back then. It’s as if I still want to do all those crazy things but I choose not to, because I know what the results would be either way it goes. Venting anger and acting stupid is a waste of energy. That, folks, is what I call wisdom.
While I generally have the overall wisdom of a single-celled organism, the human species gradually adjusts behavior so as to avoid discomfort, disorder, to conserve energy and to nurture the next generation of living spawn. Somehow, as we get older it gets easier to make the choices to be responsible, even if we really want to go hanging off of a Russian crane. The fact is, growing wiser is about learning to embrace the uncertainty and disorder that life brings, and being strengthened by adversity. I am just starting to read a book that deals with this topic.
But here’s the best part in my theory. Age, being based on attitude, can be changed, altered or improved. While our bodies get older and wear out faster, we can choose activities and lifestyles to make them better. If we really want to feel young and full of energy and vigor, we must make the choices that get our bodies to work with us instead of against us. This means we have to eat like an older person, which is to say, fewer calories than those in an entire pizza. It means ingesting a lot more plant matter and a lot less stuff to make them taste good. It means having to run an extra mile three times a week instead of just sitting there or doing a few situps once in a while.
The clincher is that we get ourselves so busy being adults that we forget the kids that are still alive in us. Unless we find a way to balance work with play, we’re just going to keep getting older until our body decides it’s had enough. The question is, is it really worth it? Is a life of comfort and convenience and poor health better than a life of strenuous activity and great health? We all play games, just different ones of different significance. The kid in you will play one way, the adult another.
Since, we tend to minimize discomfort and disorder, avoid conflict and failure, we miss out on the very things that hammer wisdom into us. The Bible would say things about how God chisels us into his image and it’s often quite painful for the believer. Our 21st century lifestyles rob us of this, regardless of our beliefs.
As you continue to work into this new year, find one area in your life that has made you too busy and evaluate if you can afford to eliminate it. then, find one area where you waste time and do likewise. You’ll feel younger and be wiser for it. I call that a win-win.
Oh and tomorrow morning when I go back to work? I’ll have combed hair and a necktie. And I love it.