When I was a young person, I assumed that growing older was a gentle gradation between being young and old and that the time in between would seem like an eternity.
A better analogy is that it’s more like a circuit breaker. You’re young and for some mysterious reason, the switch flips and you’re old. It seems, there is no in between.
When I was younger I also assumed that getting old would suck. I was wrong about that too. The older I become the more amazed I am about life and the more I recognize that it’s an amazing and wonderous gift. Other old people seem to share this perspective.
You’re young for a reasonably short time. During that period, you spend a lot of time figuring things out. The novelty of life is not lost on the young. When you become visibly older (read: grey and/or wrinkled and/or bald and/or hopelessly out of fashion) you join a global club of other old people and it doesn’t matter your age. You could be 44 or 104 — you belong simply because you’re not young.
And that’s awesome.
When I was younger, I spent countless hours trying to find other similar people and together we discussed all the amazing things we wanted to do. Aspiration was a currency and optimism was inexpensive.
In the club of the old, it’s incredibly easy to strike up a conversation* with anyone in the club and talk about all of the amazing things we have already accomplished and the many opportunities that still lie ahead. Aspirations change and gratitude and wonder become plentiful.
Growing older also brings with it a few peculiarities. The hot young person you met and started dating in your 20s and now that you’re in your 50s, your perception and appreciation shifts. They are still beautiful but in ways that you never expected.
It’s amazing to see how quickly your close friends get wrinkly and turn grey. In the eternal words of Dorothy Zbornak: “I looked in my rear view mirror and there was some old woman staring back at me.” Then you realize, you’re getting wrinkly and grey just as fast. When you’re young, you’re physically beautiful without trying (though too few of us believe it at the time.) When you’re old, your beauty deepens, but this time you’re somewhat more aware of it.
Considering that I am firmly anhored in both worlds of old and young, it’s amazing to me how much easier it is to be old than it is to be young. My advice to the young folks out there is simple: dream big because you only get one shot. When it comes time for you to join the old club, you’ll realize that all the worry and strife are wanton. Spend your time investing in yourself. And don’t stop.
(*And, for those of you that know me, you know that I’m not much of a conversationalist, so it is indeed much easier.)