It started in our 20s. I’m serious. I found a single gray hair at 25 and my 28 year old friend clucked, “you’re getting old!” like a spiteful aunt.
It gathered steam in our 30s, when everyone was surprised that binge drinking late into the night and fried foods caught up to you if you did for a decade and stopped playing ultimate frisbee. Backs were clutched, unwanted pounds were gained and complained about and dieted away and cheated back on and all the while the wine was delicious.
What’s in store for the 40s? Beyond? Must we bitch and moan ourselves into an early grave? Because I have to tell you, I get just as annoyed listening to people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s talk this way! Like, it’s soooo inevitable that you step off the cliff of 35 and you become ugly, stupid, and irrelevant and you should stop telling your story and stop learning.
Please know I am not talking about coping with real illness and challenging diagnoses whose frequency increase with age. I have thyroid disease. It gives me fatigue. I can’t stay up late the way I used to. This is also a natural effect of aging and changing my priorities. We all gain injuries of body and mind that create limitations. These challenges can accumulate with age.
I’m talking about just bitching about getting old as a knee-jerk, defensive reaction to being confronted with a learning curve of a new technology. Or not getting a current cultural reference. Or a gray hair on your damn friend.
We all age, but the current narrative around aging is boring me…to death! Why are there so few voices in the chorus sharing pride in their wisdom and experience? When did a youthful body start to mean more than the depth of character? How about we turn that around?
It’s easy to feel discouraged and old in a youth-worshipping culture. Everywhere you look you see youth and beauty revered while wisdom and experience take a backseat. Silicon Valley would often rather hire a young freshling out of school with no family than take a gamble on someone with a higher starting salary. Staying relevant can be a very real fight.
Here’s my dream: create a parallel universe, a counterculture, where we mourn our youth appropriately and realize the youth we still have left. Where we support each other and create new opportunities for our selves and our friends. If my friends in their 50s and beyond tell me they wish they were as young as me, I’m going to enjoy feeling that young now instead of waiting to be 50 and realizing that my 40s were pretty awesome after all.
In a world where we are born, we live, and we die, it seems disrespectful to death to live like it’s already here.
So not so fast. Notice the jokes you tell about yourself and others, even in jest. Don’t fail to see the gifts of the place where you are. Embrace the developmental changes, but don’t let anyone EVER define your relevance for you.