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Living Through The Ages

posted Sep 9, 2016, 8:18 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Sep 12, 2016, 11:55 PM ]

You often hear the phrase age is just a number. The idea is that age should not stop you from doing the things you want to do. Society puts age based constraints on people. Older people are expected to dress in sober tones and probably not go bungee jumping.

It isn't ones actual age, the number, that matters. It is more about physical fitness, mental acuity etc which is supposed to decline with age. There is no point in denying that these do decline with age, but how fast is different for different people. So it must be for individuals to decide what they are comfortable with at a particular age and not for society to thrust it's collective opinion on them.

But to me, age is not really just a number. There is a lot more to it. Age is also a gradual change in perspective. Youth is blessed with all the promise of tomorrow. Life is a plethora of possibilities. Tomorrow is embraced with open arms for the surprises it brings and the new things one can learn. Children believe in magic, because to them everything is magic.

Children are eager to grow up. They want to be older and bigger. They see it as a symbol of strength and power. They are eager to reach adulthood, but what they are really eager to reach is their prime. What is this prime?

In your late teens and early twenties you are in your physical prime. As a doctor once said in the TV show west wing, “In your twenties, you can eat Tupperware and your body will deal with it.” For most, it is the time when their body could best handle all kinds of shocks and stress. In our twenties, most of us can go several nights without sleeping and still be productive. We can eat all kinds of things without worrying about acidity or cholesterol or diabetes, or heart disease. We can sleep on any surface or in any position and not have backaches. We can fall and barely notice it. This is what makes the twenties attractive.
Never again will, our bodies be as robust and shock absorbing. Of course for some people this phase continues a lot longer and some are fragile even in their twenties but generally this is true.

I would be lying, if I said I don't miss how easily my body handled physical stress and recovered from injuries in my twenties. Late teens and twenties are also the time, life is uncertain. Yet I have never felt or sounded more certain about my future and convictions than when I was in my early twenties. There was so much I took for granted then, or paid little attention too. That could never happen to me, I was quick to say. I would never let it get that far, I would say, like I could control the weather.

With age we learn that there is no denying that luck plays some part in how our life turns out. True that, opportunities and accidents are a matter of luck, and how we tackle them is still in our control. But sometimes a certain thing happening at a certain time goes a long way in determining the course of our life. We learn how things can change and how unpredictable life really is. We learn what our strengths and limitations are. With that comes humility. Oddly with it also comes confidence.

This is not the same confidence of youth, based on the promise of tomorrow and a feeling of infallibility. It is a confidence rooted in experience of having tackled difficult situations successfully, but more importantly of having bounced back from dismal failure.

The striking thing about ageing to me, is a sense of time ticking away mercilessly. Although children know of death, few are able to internalise the concept. It is not quite real to them. But, at some point, the fact that life is finite and that with every moment what is left is getting shorter, sinks in. That is when I first felt, I was getting old. It doesn't stop me from doing what I want. But it does help me prioritize. It adds a sense of urgency to things that I am eager to experience. Instead of being a deterrent, I find that it pushes me to do things I have been afraid of doing. I can't let fear hold me back or I will never experience the things I want to. Suddenly, instead of thinking in terms of endless tomorrows, I find myself thinking, if not now, then when?

This is what gave me the courage to become a SAHM despite worrying about people thinking I was wasting my education. It is what gave me the courage to become a writer, putting aside worries of how people will judge my writing. Age gives me courage because the older I get, the less I have to lose and the more I gain from following my passions.

This reminds me of a lovely verse by Robert Browning, often quoted by Asimov in Pebble In The Sky

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
the last of life,
for which the first was made.

Okay, ranting ov
er. Wonder how I will feel about this post in 10 years. Although this article is not exactly related, it got me thinking about ageing and indirectly inspired this bit of pontification. So now you know who to blame.