So… In case it isn’t obvious, I’m getting a little order now. Not on death’s door by any means, but my best years are behind me. I’m certainly not the young man I used to be.
Hold on. Behind me? What the hell is up with that?
I’ve definitely had some good years in the past. The joy of having babies is indescribable. Raising them is hard, but even then, watching them grow into their own personalities and maturing into adulthood themselves can be a fantastic experience (Especially looking back. Don’t make me wait up again until 2:00 am to make sure you’re home okay.) My career peaked around 45. In terms of accomplishments and influence at work, there’s no question that I’m on the downhill run.
But were those times the best? Is there nothing else to really look forward to with the same optimism and happy anticipation?
I think not.
To use the very overused phrase, ‘Age is relative’. And that is the truth. My parents got old a whole lot faster than I am. Some of this was my being young and just seeing them as old. But even now, remembering how they lived and their attitudes towards life matured at a much earlier time. By the time they were in their 50’s, their manner of dress had changed, their interests shifted and the whole outlook was at a much different place then. Mom dressed like an old spinster. From my teens, all I can remember is her in a knee length, very conservative cut dress with really ugly patterns and colors. Her hairstyle changed too. No carefully maintained and stylish cut. Just a short perm, curled tight. Hard to explain, but I guarantee if you saw it today, you’d immediately think “Grandma”. And okay… back then the standard for men was suit and tie every day. And my dad did conform somewhat with the new styles and fashion. He had no choice. You could hardly find the simple black suits with the narrow lapels and skinny ties anywhere. It was a shock the first time I saw him with a colored shirt going to work! And with a leisure suit sporting wide lapels and highly colored three inch wide ties. (Sounds hideous I know, but back then it was all the rage!) But as far back as I can remember, he lived like an old man. His idea of fun was spending time in his garden, carefully tending his roses. I could spend then next hour or more just getting into their old personalities.
But that’s a story for another day.
Now, it’s totally different, and not just for me. We go dancing at the clubs, and there’s just as many over 40’s there as there are 20’s. We’re not doing the foxtrot or waltz either. Shake that booty! Then there’s hanging out at friends’ houses; just laughing, partying, and whooping it up. We go to trendy restaurants, craft beer festivals, and concerts. Our fun is more like a 30 year old well into our 60’s. And not being irresponsible or inappropriate either. Just having a good time. And it’s not just the crowd I choose to hang with, you see it everywhere!
I can see a different story in my mirror. My hair is white. My face is wrinkled. Don’t even look at the back of my hands either! Varicose veins? Yep. I got ‘em. I’ll admit that sometimes it’s difficult to make eye contact with myself in my reflection. That image does NOT go with the thinking.
Looking at contemporaries, it’s hard to believe that they’ve aged like they have. I see people I went to school with and think “DAMN… they look HORRIBLE”. You know that they’re looking at me with their own “DAMN”.
But it doesn’t fit! Damn!
So here’s the thing. I choose not to be an old man. I’m not going to live a sedentary life, spending time rocking on the front porch yelling at kids to get off my lawn. Not only has society as a whole has morphed into this ‘age is a number’ time, but I still think like I did 30 years ago. On the average, people are living longer, which does stretch the middle age period later in life. Even if I die at 70 however, I refuse to be that crotchety antique just waiting to go. I want to keep “livin la vida loca” right up to the very end. As I look back, I want “damn that was fun”.
If you are in the ‘pre-senior’ group, I’ll bet you understand completely. And if you don’t, why the hell not? Sure, we all have the ache’s and pains from all the years of use of our bodies. You drive your car long enough and the transmission is going to go out, and the paint is going to fade. A few repairs and it still keeps you going though.
And you young’ens? Hold on! It’s coming faster than you think. You blink and your kids are in college. They are married with children. They are starting to creep into their own ‘middle age”. It’s a grim reminder to us that time marches on, but that applies to you too. This old world keeps spinning, and you’re spinning with it.
My advice? (Since you asked) Live your life. Live ALL your life. Don’t anticipate the end, be surprised by it! “What, over already? Is it really time to go?” Start enjoying yourself early and end late. Find your joy, have your fun and don’t ever slow down. Allowing yourself to live old only brings that eulogy closer.
I prefer to consider myself still in my youth, just with a whole lot more experience and memories. And kids, if you listen closely there are things you can learn from those of us who’ve been there and done that. One advantage I do have is a lot of chances to learn from my mistakes. And make no mistake…
You don’t live once. You die once. So Live it!