It occurred to me recently that my friends and I think we’re old. I’m not really sure how I earned this title. But I don’t want it any more.
“Oh god, we are old”.
It’s a joke, but like with all jokes, the underlining meaning is really a gut punch in disguise: We are no longer students and somehow this means our youth has been magically stripped from us.
I remember the first time I heard someone in their 20’s tell me that they were old. I was in full-costume and on the stage of the most annoyingly awful state musical I have ever been in: The Wizard of Oz.
One of the “older” cast members, AKA not a girl in her teen’s or a child playing a munchkin, stood on stage left with me. We were watching the show, awkwardly using the scene on stage to avoid conversation. I, the winning extrovert, oddly blurted out “so how old are you?”, thinking the girl had to be at least 18.
She replies with a grim expression, “I’m 25. Halfway to 50.” Um, okay.
I vividly remember thinking how ridiculous this was. Here this girl is, 25 years young, telling me she was already thinking about age 50 and absolutely loathing the idea. What about years 26–49? Heck, what about year 50?
So I started paying attention to this idea of self-aging. Well, that’s what I like to call it (I’m not concerned about a technical term, to be honest). Over the past five years, I have watched person after person age themselves into oblivion. Here are a few of the greatest hits:
1. “I go to bed at 9pm. I’m so old”
No. No you’re not. You know what you are? You’re smart. Teenagers, and particularly college kids, have this irrational idea that wearing your lack of sleep equates to a badge of honor. As if trashing your body for the sake of bragging rights makes you youthful.
It also makes zero scientific sense.
People that go to bed earlier and follow a routine sleep schedule not only look younger, but they also function far better. You’re doing an incredibly youthful and restorative thing for your body.
Contrary to popular belief, all-nighters kill your productivity, leave your body absolutely drained and set you up for severe health issues. Now tell me, does that really sound young to you?
2. “Everyone is getting married. It makes me feel old”.
Okay, been here. Guilty as charged. However, let’s look at the evidence.
First, it’s probably a handful of the people you know. One thing about Facebook and other social media platforms is that they often bump up the posts with the most likes, assuming you are interested. Since every person on Facebook seems to “like” these things, we end up with these announcements littering our screen with their “…and 350 others liked…”
Second, why does it even matter when other people are getting married? My parents got married when they were 30. I have a close friend getting married at 24. Heck, I just saw two 60-somethings get married.
It’s like we’re all in some weird rat race with each other. Let’s quit comparing ourselves. No single person’s experience is the same.
3. “I got a job! #Adulting”
Since when is having a 9–5 job in an office some indication that you are an adult?
a·dult: a person who is fully grown or developed. (I don’t see anything about working in that definition, do you?)
The most youthful people I know measure their age in thoughts and experience, not by silly cultural norms that tell you what is acceptable at your biological age. Sure, growing up is fun. Diving into the professional world can be exhilarating. But are you counting down the days to retirement or waking up thrilled to be doing the work that you love?
I have long considered Jane Fonda a role model of mine. And so does Michelle Obama. Not only due to her being almost 80 and killing it, but in the way she talks about taking care of herself at every age.
Take this killer quote:
“Looking at age from the outside is so scary. But when you’re inside age — and I’m very much inside age — it isn’t scary at all. You need maturity to learn this, but it’s important to figure out what you need to do for yourself every day to decompress. I meditate. And I always get eight hours’ sleep.”
What I admire most is that she is still working. The woman is 79 years old and hammering meat in the middle of a Grace & Frankie episode. As someone who works with 70 year old’s hardly getting out of their wheel chairs, this impresses me.
So why are we aging ourselves?
Jogging off to college. Running ourselves into a career. Sprinting to retirement so we don’t have to work any more. Not that I don’t believe in retirement, I just vehemently protest the idea that we have to stop doing something meaningful in our lives.
I want to never stop being of service to to others. And I’m prepared to never let my biological age get in the way. Because another calendar year offers me another 365 (or so) chances to love myself and inspire others.
What are you going to do with yours?