I am not very good at math though our country is 237 years old, and of those 237 years I have lived nearly 50 of them. So, I have lived roughly 20% of our country’s entire history.
Yet, everyone reading this blog at this moment is now older from the moment you began reading it. Growing older is a natural part of the human condition whether we like it or not. And, as they say, the alternative really sucks.
I recall growing up and my dad constantly making fun of old people and when cut-off by an elderly driver he would scream for the “old fart” to get off the road. Come to think of it, it was profound “age-ism.” Now my father, nearly 80, only needs to look in the mirror to find an old fart…anyone with a shred of wisdom would indeed be wise to refrain from making fun of the elderly as that is our likely fate; at least we can hope that is our fate.
Making fun of the elderly is kind of like making fun of breathing as we are all engaged in growing older all the time. Growing old is needed to survive. A sign of good health is growing old…some never get that far.
But back to me.
The weird thing is it seems like I was always the young one. I was the junior on the varsity team. I was the 25 year-old young dad. I was the youngest on the parks and rec softball team. I taught my first college course at age 27…I was the young prof. In the “30 and over” basketball league I was just 30 -actually I cheated, I was 29 and a half. I was the young upstart at the meeting that did not speak up as I did not want to be perceived as the young “whipper snapper.”
Now I am the usually the old guy in the room and I must have missed that time when I was right there with everyone else age-wise. I was either the young one as now I am the old one. I guess I should have been paying more attention.
So young kids, I realize our culture is full of awful rhetoric about growing old, though listen up to Grampa Jimmy here on why getting old is really kind of cool. Actually there are 6 of them.
There is no substitute for experience. The more shit you have done, the wiser you are. Period. At 50, I have done a lot of shit and when the shit hits the fan, as it does so often in life, most of us treat those times with disdain. Yet, in reality, those times of hardship and difficulty are fortifying your worth and potential as a human being. And when it happens again to you or someone else, guess who is all the wiser?
You know who you are. What an unbelievable feeling to be comfortable in your skin, which stands to reason because loose and wrinkly is far more comfortable than tight and restrictive. The funny thing is I never realized how uncomfortable I actually was in my own skin…until I got really comfortable in it. Now it’s like wearing loose cotton sweats with no undies each and every day.
You stop sweating the small stuff as you see the larger context of life. I will never forget when I was a young man, say 18 or so, there was a group of us who would play a yearly “turkey bowl” football game. We divided the teams up by “old” (usually over 25) and the young. Our young team was full of star athletes…yet year after year we lost to the “old” team. I could never figure it out until I got “old” and played on that team. Those young uns could run faster and catch better, yet they were dumb as hell; overconfident, understragetized, yet remarkably athletic little shits. I finally understood that with age comes a strategy; and the man with many weaknesses who knows them will always beat the man with fewer weaknesses who is unaware.
Confidence. Oh baby. When you accept who you are you now have the opportunity to be confident…frailties, weaknesses and all. Why? Because it’s just who you are and you can be confident in it. Don’t mistake confidence for prideful…these could not be further apart. Pride is overestimation of self; confidence is an accurate estimation or even underestimation of self and being fine with it.
If you play your cards right, you should have a few bucks in the bank…which is nice. I had so many people in my 20’s telling me all this crap about if you save, like $5 a week every week by the time you are 50 you will be like a millionaire of something. Did I listen? Of course not! I just told the (usually) old fart to shut up…I probably will never even make it to 50. Fortunately I was not completely ignorant and now can enjoy a vacation or two, which is nice.
You finally begin to lose that nasty youthful illusion of permanence. Nothing like knowing for sure you’re gonna be dead, like, in not a very long time. Losing that illusion is so healthy because you realize how valuable and lovely life is…it’s like you never appreciate your feet until you injure them or your tongue until you bite it. Lose a bit of life in the rearview mirror and you realize just how awesome it is as it gives you a new perspective while looking out the front windshield.
So kids, fire off all the old man jokes and taunts you wish… because you can all only hope to be where I am one day. Bitches.