Archived 2-05-04


“Coming of Age?”

By Larry John

I have noticed something lately. I am growing older. I am not old yet, but I am well on my way. I am still quite young to a 70-year-old. But I am quite old to a 30-year-old. Some days I feel like the “ancient of days” and other days I feel like the “essence of youth.” Depending on who I am with, I feel young, I feel old, I “feel my age.” So, even though I am 55 years old, there are days that my “mind” forgets my age and I act like a 2-year-old. I yell and scream and even pout if I don’t get my way. I am anything but the mature, well-educated, extremely intelligent, totally in control individual I report myself to be.  Sometimes my 55 -year-old mind thinks I am 18 again and I think that I should be able to party all night like I did at 18 years of age. Well I can’t. But my mind forgets that.

This brings to mind a story of my 88-year-old Uncle Waldo. As he tells the story, he was working in his yard and was trimming one of his trees. He started from the bottom of the tree and started trimming the branches up the tree. He trimmed up as far as his arms would reach, but there was still one more branch that he wanted to cut off. Try as he may, he could not reach the branch, so he got this idea. Rather than go get a ladder and climb up on it to reach the branch, he would just jump up, and while in the air he would open the trimmer and with one big snapping motion he would cut the branch. So he reached his arms high in the air and bent his knees and got ready for the jump. He took a deep breath and with one big movement jumped up in the air, but much to his dismay nothing happened. He didn’t leave the ground. He thought this was really strange. So, he bent his knees again and jumped again with the same result. His feet didn’t even leave the ground an inch. His feet stayed firmly on the ground. But Uncle Waldo kept on trying until it was painfully obvious what the problem was. He began to giggle and muttered out loud, “Oh my gosh, I can’t jump anymore!” You see, in Uncle Waldo’s mind he was still a young man, when jumping was no big deal. After all, who couldn’t jump? Well, an 88-year-old man named Waldo couldn’t. His jumping days were over. So, he stood there for a couple more minutes and just laughed and laughed repeating over and over, “I can’t jump anymore. I can’t jump anymore. Well what do you know, I can’t jump anymore.”

That is what I am talking about. Sometimes, with some things, we are not as young as our minds “think” we are. Sometimes, with some things, we are not as old as we think we are. Take for example my teenage daughter. She thinks she is so mature, and in some things she is. But, in many things, her idea of a mature idea is my idea of a real stupid immature idea. If you talk to a 3-year-old for very long, it becomes very clear that they don’t know that they are thinking like a 3-year-old. They think we should be thinking just like they are thinking and they can’t understand when we say things like, “No, not right now.” The reason is, they have very little comprehension of time and if “not now” that would mean “never,” because all there is, is “now”. As we grow older we understand the difference of the past, present, and future. Even though Einstein told us there is no such thing as “time,” I still don’t get it. That is hard for my 55-year-old mind to get right “now.” But, once again, I digress. That too is a sign of age. But, once again, I digress.

So, as I grow older and come of age, my age that is, I realize that there are three things we say about age and growing old that seem, at first, to say the same thing, but that have totally different meanings. They are; to grow older, grow up, and to act your age. Growing older is simple. If you live, you grow older. Everyone does. Each year we get another year older. Even though many of us would like to stop the calendar, we get older each and every day. But, do we “grow up” as we are growing older? Many of us do, while many of us don’t. I have friends that still think like they did when they were in high school. They are in their mid-fifties and they haven’t matured in their thinking since they were 18 years old. They have grown older, but not grown up. They still won’t take responsibility for their own actions, they still want to drink and party with they boys all weekend, they still want to go to bars and pick up women, they still think that sports is all there is to life, they still think that “chicks dig them and want them” because of their incredible good looks (looks they lost years ago), they still belong to the same political party and church that their parents belonged to; not because of any real belief they have studied, but just because their parents thought that way. These are 55-year-old 18-year-olds. They never grew up. Yes, they did grow old, but they never grew up.

But now there is one more thing that intrigues me and that is the saying “acting one’s age.” What does that mean exactly? If you “act your age,” does that mean that with each age there is an accepted or expected way to “act”? I think so. I think that the real secret to growing older with “grace” is to be able to act your age and LIKE it, and to be 55 years old and have no regrets. In fact, not only no regrets, but to have a full and real excitement for being the age you are. To know how to act your age and think that it is cool. Did I say, “cool”? Is cool still cool to say? What I mean is we must be able to be 30, or 40, or 50, or 60, or 90 for that matter, and to be able to act our age and respect our self and receive great comfort in the “season” of our life that we are in. “To everything…turn, turn, turn…there is a season….” We should be excited for every season of our life, whether that be spring, summer, fall, or winter, they are all good seasons. But it is silly to wear spring clothes in the wintertime. We would look silly wearing shorts and a t-shirt walking through 5 feet of snow. But today, unlike the days of our parents, the worship of “youth” and “thinking young” has perhaps mixed us up to the point that we no longer “want” to act our age. People used to want to get older to be more wise, but wise isn’t something most of us want anymore. We want to be young. We all have the Peter Pan syndrome. Not only do we not want to “grow old,” we don’t want to “grow up,” and the last thing we want to do is “act our age.”

 So, how does one act their age? For example, does a 55-year-old act and feel the same about their job as a 25-year-old? Does a 70-year-old act or think the same about sex as a 19-year-old? Does a 60-year-old act and think the same as a 16-year-old about the importance of the type of car they drive? Does a 42-year-old feel the same about having a big family as a 22-year-old? Does a 63-year-old look a little silly dating a 23-year-old? Is “acting your age” a good thing? Does a 75-year-old woman wear the same make-up and die their hair purple like a 17-year-old might do? Does an 84-year-old man still buy Playboy magazines? Does a 49-year-old woman still talk about some young guy’s “cute toosh?”(Well maybe that’s OK.) But, seriously, when do we start acting our age and liking it?

Sure stay young as long as you can, but no longer than you should. Sure, thinking “young” is a good thing, but thinking your age is much better. If you are young, think young, if you are older, think more maturely. The question is how old are you? It is time for most of us to grow up and act our age… and have lots of fun growing older. Winter, spring, summer, fall, just act your age. To everything there is a season. Think about it.