Serendipity | Reflections on age



Candles on birthday cakes add a festive look and provide opportunities to coerce the celebrant into admitting how many years those candles represent. Some folks skirt around the truth while others rejoice every 12 months that another year of life is theirs to celebrate. Numbers provide but one detail about age, simply telling how many years from birth to the present. They say nothing about quality of life, happiness, personal accomplishments, difficulties survived and sometimes overcome, or the joy of family and friends. Still many rely on age alone to determine what they can and can’t do, and challenging the outcome doesn’t occur to them. Only the foolish try to argue with calendars, but the brave and bold don’t give up because certain numbers show how long they’ve traveled life’s journeys. They look forward to more.

Perhaps the more pertinent question is, “How old am I to me? I know what statistics say, but what do I say?” Now responsibility has shifted to the birthday person. Most of us have figured out age is relative. Remember how “old” we thought our teachers were or the neighbor next door or our Grandmas? As we moved increasingly faster from one decade to the next, we began rethinking about those “older” people from our past. A blurb in a publication read, “when you are old enough to be a parent to most of your co-workers, you are old.” Goodness, I could be a grandparent to some in the work force even though my grandchildren aren’t that old. But the possibility is thought provoking.

I have no qualms about my age. It’s not something I can control, but I hope the years were spent wisely. Growing up we were admonished about wasting time. Perhaps that stuck with me, although I wish other pertinent information would linger instead of evaporating five minutes after I hear or read it. We are advised to complete any unfinished business we have because life is short and time remaining is uncertain. That includes relationships, actual business matters, or goals still waiting completion. While we’ll never discover the fountain of youth, we might find pursuing our dreams is a delightful way of maintaining youth.

A memorial donation was given to a philanthropic cause with this dedication: “In loving memory of my wife who loved to engage each person she met in a meaningful conversation.” What a legacy! Might this woman have experienced disappointment at times with some people’s negative responses? Of course, but likely she didn’t take it personally, simply giving each individual the option of talking or not. Some distance between preferences and reality is necessary for contentment.

We’re told jokingly and seriously that growing older is physically and emotionally challenging. Sometimes our expectations are too high and we’re hesitant to risk looking foolish or getting hurt or both. But if we refuse to keep trying, or to try a new approach, we’ll miss out on what’s offered regardless of age. Insecurities creep up throughout life. Remember day one of summer camp; the first day of high school; or the first night with a newborn. We maybe cried a little or a lot, but we kept going. And so it is now. Enjoy the parties, forget the numbers, live passionately and kindly, and keep giving your best.

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