When I was young, I used to look at older people and be glad that I wasn’t them. They seemed so uncool. Of course, I never thought that I would be old myself one day, just like I never thought that I could ever die. Now that I’ve lost a few people I care about, and know for a fact that I will indeed join them one day, I can’t delude myself about the inevitability of death. I haven’t truly accepted it yet, but I don’t exactly have a choice, either.
In the meantime, I’ve been wondering lately what it was exactly about older people that I found so uncool. I remember feeling that I was nothing like them, that there was no common theme we could discuss. Now that I’m older, I wonder if my younger friends think the same thing about me. And for the record, I was never cool when I was younger, so it’s laughable that I thought there was someone even less cool than me at the time.
When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, my friends were rarely my own age. Part of this was the fact that I lived overseas and had two children by the time I turned 25, when most of my friends waited until their mid to late 30’s to get married and have children. I didn’t return to college until I was 27, so most of my friends were younger–and weren’t trying to juggle full-time college, part-time work, and single motherhood. I guess I did things backwards from most people. My kids are grown now, and I finally have more time to devote to myself and my own interests.
Maybe it’s also that older people today are choosing to live their lives as if they are ageless, that age no longer determines what you should or shouldn’t be doing with your life. Maybe it’s a false perspective on my part because I am hesitant to accept the fact that I now officially fall in the “middle-age” category, but older people seem younger today, kind of like “50 is the new 40.” Some of us actually seem kind of cool.
I mean, I run, I hike, I camp, I listen to new music, I like good movies, I like to dance, I knit (yes, that is cool again). Even the music I listened to in the 70’s is still cool (except for John Denver, RIP, I still love you!, and yes, I know, JD was anything but cool). Actually, I’m still doing the same things I’ve always done, I’m just older now. The big difference is, however, I don’t care what anyone thinks. I could care less if I’m cool or not, or if someone thinks I’m too old to be rollerblading down the Katy Trail listening to Weezer. And that’s the best part of getting older–letting go of society’s expectations and playing by your own rules.
When you reach a certain point in life, you have to give up all the trappings of “shouldn’t” and “can’t.” I’m starting to realize that the grains of sand are halfway down the hourglass and I’ve still got a lot of things to do. I think a lot of our fears about aging and changing have nothing to do with reality, that they’re only the voices of the past holding us back because we don’t want to look silly. Or uncool. Or younger than we are.
At some point you have to accept the face in the mirror that stares back at you, even if you can’t believe it’s yours. You have to accept that everything in this world changes, from the tallest tree to the smallest grain of sand, and that includes yourself. You can go spend thousands of dollars on a facelift, or hours in the gym lifting weights, or you can sensibly work out to stay healthy, and celebrate all the stories that put those lines on your face in the first place.
Now, go strap on your roller blades, turn up the Pearl Jam, and start thinking about your next adventure. You’re not done yet!