Sleepwalking through life makes us old. Once we stop doing what makes us happy, bring us fun, fill us with a sense of purpose (no matter what it is), we decay, as our joy for life atrophies.
Our experiences help us evolve, they don’t age us or beat us down unless we carry a load we mistakenly assigned to them.
When did we as a society begin assuming age is a detriment?
When I turned sixty-eight years old last month, a few friends reminded me I am just a stone throw away from being seventy. “That’s really old” they said.
They are not alone in this belief; I made a similar statement about people in their sixties when I was much younger. In fact, I recall when my brothers and I got together to discuss my father’s future knowing he was about to turn fifty. I recall warning my brothers;
“The old man is half a century old and could go at any moment, what are we going to do?”
The value of experience and wisdom
American culture has never had much use for older people. The words “old age” and “senior citizens” connote some kind of weakness. This is another way our society puts a more valued emphasis on youth. You can see this today, young people wanting the old to move out of the way so they can take charge.
This was the case in my workplace where we, those employees under forty, counted the days for our supervisors to turn sixty-five and retire. there would be more opportunity for us and things would be better, we assumed, once we took over.
I remember being told this was nature’s way. There is the story about how older bison border the outside of their herd to protect the younger ones from their natural predators. The theory is that they do this because the predators would have an easier time catching the slower, older ones and not chase after the younger. When I was younger, of course, I was convinced this was nature’s way of telling us the old were less important than the young.
This is what I have to say today to that example,
“Yea, whatever! Perhaps the bison do this because the older ones know the tricks that will ward off their predators. Has anyone bothered to ask the bison?”
Maybe I am experiencing some karmic payback for how I treated my elders when I was younger, but now that I am “old” and prone to “senior moments”, I sure believe the way other cultures honor their elders makes more sense. In Chinese culture, for example, the older the person, the more he/she deserves to be respected for their wisdom and experience.
I regret today not having shown more respect for my elders when I was younger. They were a lot wiser and more effective than I ever hoped to be.
Don’t know what happened to me
I expected older age to be different. I was positive some switch would go off when a person passed their fiftieth birthday that would make them long for a more leisured life. There are plenty of commercials telling us this is so.
Apparently, that switch has not gone off in me yet. The idea of sitting in some cruise ship stuffing my widening ass with food and guzzling martinis while watching the entertainment group dance to Michael Jackson hits is like something out of Dante’s Inferno to me. I like playing golf, but if all I have learned in life has led me to a point where my existence is to be dominated spending countless hours in a golf cart chasing a stupid little ball on acres of manicured lawns, I might as well end it all now.
I know some people are wired for this kind of life, I am not. But, if this is the only lifestyle our society designates for someone my age, fuck that, I’m not doing it.
An enlightened time
No matter our age, we must live our lives knowing our best days are always ahead and that there is a never-ending list of things to learn and experience so that we can still help create a greater good.
I am like I have always been, ready to take on any challenge, finding joy in everything and discovering the beauty in everyone. I also remain fit and strong and ready to unite with those who believe our human purpose is to bring the best out of everything we touch. There are no two ways about it, I am an eighteen-year-old who benefits from an additional fifty years of experience.
I love my life, such as it is! It is still expanding and evolving. I guess I am lucky that way. The great thing about our existence is that, no matter your age, we can choose to live this way until your last breath. My point is, don’t let your age become a boundary, live your life knowing that everything is possible. Giving in to the idea you have nothing more to give when you reach a certain age will cause you to focus on dying. Life is too precious to be lived like that.
Remember, paying gratitude for your life forward will bring you great satisfaction.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.
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