Funny enough, the subject line quote (from a Jayhawks song) has been going through my head for a large part of the day. Yes, I turn thirty five today. I'm not normally one for pontificating on such matters, and birthdays generally don't mean much, but I've been thinking about this one.
I thought thirty would be monumental, but nothing (panic, hysteria, the like) really came up. Thirty three was only notable because I could tell people I was "the age of Rolling Rock." I thought about having a 1/3rd of a century party four months after my birthday (when I hit 33 1/3rd years old), but I never got around to it.
A number of years ago, my father said that he was shooting for 70. I thought this needlessly pessimistic at the time, especially when medical science is pushing the age barrier upward. Now that I am halfway to that age myself, however, I can't help but feel a little freaked out at the thought.
What makes the "aging of Mike" all the more surreal is that I don't feel or think of age that much during my normal life. I remember talking to my old Little Caesar boss, and he told me, "Mike, I still feel like I'm in my twenties." Well, I do to...although I am much less of a moron, have more social skills (which isn't hard), and am more confident. I have no real creaks of old age, and my bones don't ache yet. I can't sleep as long as I used to, and I can't metabolize as much sugar as before, but that's about it. I still feel, mentally, like a youngster, and the only real difference is a wider body of experience to guide my actions.
I think part of my good mental age/outlook is that I'm in an occupation which requires being able to relate to those younger than myself. Granted, this does take a conscious effort. When I did pizza, I always noticed how "the kids" listened to different music than I, and at one point, I forced myself to catch up. I found out that by listening to what they did, by watching the same shows and movies, I gained a little common ground, and that made conversations easier...and this also yields positive benefits as a teacher. Plus, I had the added advantage of not being the guy who still only listens to the same stuff he did in high school.
While doing a student conference this week, though, I got the great insight that my student, although I had a trememdous amount in common with him, saw me as an "adult" as surely as he saw himself as a kid. No surprise...some of my younger students/coworkers/friends seem to want to go out of their way to make me feel old. I won't let them, however. I refuse to be defined as "old" by any young whippersnapper. But the conference suggested to me that most of what we define as "old" is defined by other people...we only get old if we play along.
What we need to do is stop using age as an excuse not to change. I only feel old when I feel stagnant. I've been specifically battling this age-stagnation combo this year by branching out...making better friends with some youngsters, listening to different new music, watching some new programs. My parents have finally got internet connected, and I couldn't be prouder...and I think it will be good for them.
Granted, I can say these things in part because I'm still in a relatively transient state. I don't own a house; drive a really beater car; am in a job that, while I like, is not a career position; and I don't have a kid...I have, in other words, avoided a lot of the markers of maturity. But I don't think that any of these things need to necessarily stop me, as long as I keep trying to change, to grow, to improve.
Change is good. Old is a state of mind that can be avoided. Life is good.
Now, I need to make plans to drink...it is, after all, my birthday!