Our obsession with being chronologically and physiologically young is something that has always bothered me about our culture. In less than a year I will be 30, and I resent the idea that this is some sort of expiration date.
I grew up in a family that had five generations before I was in high school. I knew grandparents and great grandparents and I've seen the work that they did, and the life they led, and the fun and joy they were blessed with and shared well into their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and even past 100. When my father died at 53, he was truly in the prime of his life. He was still the mischievous, fun-loving, idealistic, and fully alive soul that he must have been when he was younger. But he had grown in wisdom, in depth, in love, visibly, as I had grown up myself. Even young as I was, I had seen him shed self-consciousness and insecurities and gain balance and self-knowledge and love over his 30’s and 40’s.
This is why I can’t understand why so many people feel like their life must be fully defined and will become static (or will even be over) once they’ve finished their 20’s. As far as I can see, your life will only stop being enjoyable if you so choose. If you cling, terrified to the person you were, or thought you were, instead of enjoying the person you are, and the person you will always be becoming. Even professionally, in a lot of fields, we privilege the young, high-octane up and comer just out of school and with the hottest new modes of thought over the professional who’s been in the field for decades and amassed an amount of knowledge some of us younger folk will never have the focus or patience to achieve.
Some people say high school and college were the best years of their life. I remember high school, and I remember college, and I remember years and years of self-doubt, of pain, of anxiety, of terror, of out of control hormones. Of fascination, of magic, and of growth also, yes, but I don’t want to stay there. I want to keep the magic going, is all. And as for physically aging, I would never trade a younger skin and thinner figure for the ability to know and love myself that I’ve only arrived at so lately. And to be honest, this confidence and self-understanding has only increased my enjoyment of and desire for physical intimacy. I’m pretty sure that part of my life isn’t going to shut down in a matter of months. I think in the future life is going to hold a lot more for me because I’m able to reach out and take it.
While part of this is because of things that have happened to me, a lot of it is also just growth. The sort of growth you can’t speed up. The sort of growth that comes from waking up every new morning, and going to sleep every night in anticipation of the next morning. I thank God for the blessing of each day. Even the days filled with hurt and anger and depression. Because by facing these and wading through them, I grow. I learn.
If you think you know who I am, well, you probably know almost as much as I do. I share a lot about myself pretty easily. Maybe it would be better if I left more to the imagination. If I were more of a mystery. But then, I am a mystery. Because even my closest friends can’t know any more than I know myself. And I am an onion and no matter how many layers I peel back and examine, there will always be another layer. The onion grows as I peel it. Or maybe, in some strange way, we peel away layers from the center out.
You may be wondering what has sparked this particular introspection. I went to a club last night to hear a friend play trumpet with a funk combo sort of band. It was terribly fun! And a lot of the people there and out on the dance floor were 40+. Many of the women were probably in their 50’s or later. And these people were having a BLAST. They were dancing, they were cuddling, they were full of life and drive. I respect that, I admire it, I reverence it, I covet it. There are still so many ways in which I’m too self-conscious to let go and have that kind of fun. I hope in 15 to 20 years, I have that energy. I hope I have that confidence. I hope I feel that attractive and alive and young.
And that’s what it means, I guess, when they say you’re only as old as you feel. It’s nice to know I’ll only get old if I let myself. And I think I’m actually getting younger every day!Ponce de Leon, eat your heart out. ;-)