So I turned 37 this week, and I’ll admit that I am quite lucky. I’ve been told by some of my childhood friends that my face hasn’t changed at all since Kindergarten. It’s almost embarrassing really. When I meet people for the first time, they often interrupt me and ask without apology, “How old are you?” Thinking about my birthday this week and the passage of time, it stirred up a lot questions. What have I learned and how have I grown during the past twelve months? Am I wiser, more content? Did I cross anything off my bucket list?
All the questions aside, what I’ve often found interesting over the years is how desperately we cling to our youth. How some never disclose their real age, as if to utter the truth, would mean to succumb to judgment from their peers, some weaker mental state or an immediate death march. Speaking with my brother this week, he asked: “Do you know what the difference is between 36 & 37, Annie?” “No” I answered. And he replied, “Absolutely nothing.” And he’s exactly right.
Recently, a friend of mine had the pleasure of running with an African friend. When she asked how old he was, he said he had no idea. “What?!” she asked him. “You really don’t know how old you are?” No, he answered. No clue. Where he is from in Africa, there are very inaccurate records of births, sometimes none at all. He guessed he was somewhere in his forties, but couldn’t be sure. Growing up, there were no lavish birthday parties, no piles of presents or greeting cards. How refreshing I thought, and how brilliant not be enslaved to the tyranny of one’s numerical age. He could effectively “choose” to be any age he wanted. I think this is what Satchel Paige meant when he asked, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”
But we don’t have to born in Africa to be able to do this. Yes, it does run contrary to our American system of metrics that loves to categorize people according to their age (see every women’s magazine on the market for examples). But we really can embody the years, and claim ownership of every year we’ve lived – if we so choose. The years I have lived are not gone from me. Not at all. I am still a naïve seventeen year-old on occasion, a swaggering twenty-something when the moment calls for it. As well as the wise 37 year-old who knows that age is all in the mind.
So that is going to be one my resolutions for this New Year. Throw out all non-essential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. I leave that for the doctors. Keep learning and keep living. Find and enjoy the simple moments. And maybe by stringing together enough of these, I will look back one day and go “now that was a trip.”
Contrary to the image we work so hard to preserve and present to the world, we are all just wonderful works in progress. Unfinished. Imperfect. With room for improvement. I believe Wavy Gravy said it best, “We’re all bozos on the bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.”
Now THAT is a cause for celebration.]]>