Aging is part of our human predicament. At first we want to be older: to be able to stay up past ten o’clock, to get a driver’s license, to vote, to buy a drink, to rent a car.
Then suddenly our perspective changes. Whoa. I don’t want to be thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy.
I recently looked back over each of my decade milestones. When I turned ten I was in fifth grade, having just suffered the indignity of being required to wear shoes to school in Honolulu. I celebrated by twentieth birthday in France in the middle of an adventure, learning another language, experiencing a different culture, exploring new ideas, starting to discover what I was about. At thirty I was immersed in a career, married with a four-year old son. Forty found me having achieved some success in business and about to leave a large company for my first foray into the world of start-ups. At fifty I was struggling through a bad work situation (about to get fired), had acquired a daughter-in-law and was soon facing an empty nest. At sixty I was a grandfather, dealing with the issues of my aging parents, settled in at work and looking forward to retiring. At seventy, I was retired, had survived a heart attack and continued to enjoy writing and giving talks.
Birthdays used to be a big deal. But when I turned sixty, my wife was in Los Angeles selling her mom’s house, so I celebrated alone, fixing a TV dinner. Just another day.
Recently I reread parts of a journal I had kept in the 1980s and early 1990s. Two things struck me. How things were different now and how things were the same.
My core being is the same as when I was younger, and I’m still grappling with the same issues: self-consciousness, fears, relationships, attitudes and deciding what I want to be when I grow up. Yet so much has changed. I’ve mellowed and don’t get as uptight as I used to. I go with the flow more now. I guess you could say that’s part of maturing.
But I still picture myself as a young person. It’s just that I’m trapped in an aging body.
I’m now more aware of the next steps, having dealt with the issues of placing my mom and stepfather in retirement then care homes and having faced the death of both parents.
My thoughts now are focused on our three-month-old grandson and our kids and other grandchildren.