Monday, February 9, 2009

Age

"Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter." -- Satchel Paige.

Generally, I think Satchel Paige was right about this one with only a couple of exceptions. I've never been one to get upset about birthdays. The only times that I have, it hasn't been about the age I was. It was about something that was missing from my life that I thought I should have had by the time I was that age. And this year is no exception.

The first time I really noticed the creeping of age was when I turned 25. There was just something slightly unnerving about being a quarter of a century old. But it didn't really faze me much.

The year I turned 30 was when I first noticed that any concern I had about age was linked to unmet dreams and needs. Leading up to the day, I had absolutely no qualms about turning 30. Then 3 days before my birthday, we got a letter from a friend that mentioned her younger sister was graduating from college that spring. Crash! I was going to be 30 with no college degree and I indulged in a bit of a pity party. It was the lack of a degree rather than the age that got to me.

Forty didn't faze me at all. I was in a new certificate program, having finished my degree 4 years earlier. I was working with like-minded people and getting ready to begin an entirely new chapter in my life. I think that 40 was the most liberating birthday I have had yet.

But this year, I am again noticing things and experiences that are missing from my life that I had hoped would be there by now. And I know that, before too many more birthdays pass, I will have to give up entirely on some of them. I don't like that fact, but they aren't entirely in my power to bring into my life. However, I think that I'll let myself continue to hope for a while longer.

Satchel got it wrong if he meant to say that age never matters. There are some cases where it does. Our society elevates youth and totally dismisses age. Ask any 50-something person what they think their prospects are if they are laid off from a job. Most folks will agree that they are slim to none.

And more than a few times in my life, I have seen very old people addressed in tones more appropriate for use with children. There is more than a suggestion that older people, meaning older than the person with the opinion, can't possibly know anything due to being old and, therefore, out of touch. I first experienced this when I was the ripe old age of 35. I'd finally returned to college to finish my degree and almost all of my classmates were in their early 20s. In a philosophy class, there was young fellow who was clearly of the opinion that I was too old to know anything at all. He would take contrary positions to everything I said and resort to put downs when logic wouldn't carry his argument forward. I was befuddled by this so I talked with the professor. He told me that I wasn't imagining it, it was real, and that I should watch how the brat talked to him as well. Apparently, the tyke had serious problems with older people, no matter how little or how much older they were. I expect that that sort of thing will increase as my age does. And I am absolutely certain that it will make me angry and I'll put a few people in their places.

An interesting thing that I've noticed about the whole age thing is that the number doesn't mean much as far as the individual is concerned. I've known people in their 20s who are "old" - and not in a good way. I've also known people in their 70s who could give people 30 years their junior a run for the money. As for myself, I have absolutely no idea what 49 is supposed to feel like. Internally, deep down in my self-identity, I don't feel significantly different than I did in my late 20s. I have no clue at all what "to act one's age" means and I don't think I want to find out. If it means to rein myself in from things I want to do simply because of the number of birthdays I've had, then I want nothing to do with it.

This year I'm determined not to focus too much on what has not come to me. I plan to continue as I have been with necessary course corrections and continue to hope. Beats the heck out of the alternative.

5 comments:

Ida said...

A great blog, and sentiments to which I can relate. As for the age "thing," I've always had more problems with the 9s than the 0s.
I can't recall who it was, but a poet once said that the 50s are when you become who you are meant to be. I'm holding her to that.
Happy Birthday.

yarnpiggy said...

I can relate. I'll be turning 28 for the tenth time this year (LOL - it's a joke I have with my friend, who is one year and two weeks older than I; when she decided she was going to stay 29, I said I wasn't going to get older than she was, so I'd have to stick at 28)...

Right. So I'm almost 37, and I've got a long list of things I haven't accomplished or experienced that I think I "should" have at my age, not least of which is my degree -- coincidentally, I've been looking into ways of finishing it in just the last few days. :-)

I'm trying not to let my sense of "failure" bother me, but it's a battle, I confess. Better to be fighting it than accepting it, at least! :-)

The Python said...

For me the biggest issue is a body which refuses to do what I want it to do.

Having grown up in a sports mad culture, I played a number of sports well into my 30s and continued to compete as an athlete until close to 50.

Chronic injuries eventually stopped me running and continue to plague me to the extent that I am sometimes unable to do the simplest of jobs like washing and polishing my car without struggling to move the next day.

I find this extremely frustrating, notwithstanding.

Knitman said...

I am 50 and the happiest I have ever been. I do think I am now who I was meant to be. yet I do have regrets. I regret that I was so damaged that it took all I had to survive. No career, no success. yet I am also very very lucky. I have wonderful John, no money worries, my dogs, a good life. Many who had the same background as me didn't make it at all. I can't change the past but I do wonder what I could have been. A vet? A Doctor? Maybe I am what i was meant to be. Nothing I can do now but go froward and enjoy and grow some more.

mad angel said...

Thank you for this. I turn 47 on the 23rd, and have been feeling very blue about not being who/where I always expected to be by this point in my life. But I do hold on to refusing to "act my age," whatever the H-E-double-hockeysticks THAT means.

So, are you my long-lost twin or something? The one who manages to say what I'm thinking but am rarely able to say?

Whenever your birthday falls (is it today?), I hope it's a good one.

Thanks again. I love coming here to read. Wonderful food for thought...