An acquaintance recently turned 55 and was bemoaning his advanced age. Trying to cheer him up, I asked, “But how old do you feel?” I expected something like, “Oh, about 45,” your typical “I feel younger than my age” answer. Instead he replied, “I feel 55. Sometimes I feel 65.”
I was only a bit taken aback by his non-standard reply as I quickly realized that this was the same man who continually complained about his job, his health, his family and whatever else was not going his way at the moment. “Figures,” I thought. “You feel 55 because your glass is the one that’s always half empty, and your misery seeks company whether it’s welcome or not.”
I’m old enough to remember playing with my father’s “I Like Ike” campaign buttons, but I feel about 33. Seriously. And that old only because I think my life experience makes me a little more mature than the 27 that I really feel. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t go around wearing hipster attire while rocking out to Carly Rae Jepsen, but I can hold my own in conversations on topics dear to the hearts of my two twenty-something daughters. And they no doubt appreciate that my opinions are shared with them rather than flung at them off the pedestal of Experience.
To me, age is a mindset, and chronological age is but a means of recording the accumulation of social security benefits. I still take stairs two at a time and birthdays mean nothing to me, although my body reminds me now and again that its internal clock doesn’t always agree with my Peter Pan-like intent to stay young forever. So it’s no wonder that I look at people who do look and act their chronological age and am not impressed. Looking and acting dignified may have its place, but I’m not drawn to looking and acting like an aging butler or curmudgeonly old southern senator.
I made a pact with my Golden, Archie, that we will grow young together: he will always be my goofy puppy, and I will always secretly be a young man who has simply acquired maturity and a few wrinkles along the way. I have no interest in growing old, and I have no interest in rubbing shoulders with those who act Staid and Proper and Old. Youth means looking forward and acting in the moment, while age means sighing a lot and thinking about cashing in one’s chips. A young mindset results in innovative ideas and a sense of adventure and creativity, not necessarily a bad thing on any career path. People are drawn to optimists and idealists, repulsed by whiners and defeatists. So I refuse to whine about growing old and give up the joy of a young mind. I will simply not act my age.