“I’m still waiting to feel like a grown-up.”
If you Google this line you will find young adults, middle-agers, and old-timers alike, saying it.
“I feel like a kid,” thirty-year-olds with kids of their own and mortgages, are saying.
“I still feel like a kid,” says my eighty-something-year-old friend.
You say, “I don’t feel old. When did I become this old?” You insist, “I’m the same as I was at sixteen,” but on some days you will cede, “I’m not the person I was. I can’t do what I used to do.” When do you come to acknowledge those first inklings that you might be old?
At some point we all lose loved ones, friends, pets, opportunities. And sometimes we lose sharpness and memories, abilities, mobility, independence. Maybe the loss of what we believe defined us is what drives us to finally write our advance directives or begin to explore what really matters in our lives, as Atul Gawande discusses in his newest book, Being Mortal.
Are you old when you don’t want to ride ponies, or when eating spaghetti and chocolate ice cream with wild abandon is no longer appealing? When you give up driving are you old or are you cautious? If you’re twerking to Gangsta rap are you young or just trying to feel young? Are you still young if you dance in your Converse sneakers and smoke smuggled joints in your mother’s condo? Are you old if you no longer have a mother? When you become a grandparent do you become old?
I say age is simply a measure of your time since birth. Never mind wrinkles, gray hair, and arthritic joints. The hearing loss and senior moments just make us feel worn out. What matters most is attitude and activity. Life is short; enjoy it even as the body crumbles. You are both young and old. Even if you’ve been reformed and rehabilitated, even though every cell in your body has changed several times over, the YOU you were is the YOU you are and will be. Whether or not you look to the times ahead or notice the years creeping by.
So maybe it’s time to hug your inner child.
What are the ways you are old and young?