Remember when you were a kid and the older kids got to do things you weren’t allowed to do? Like when your older siblings could stay up late and you had to go to bed? Or when grown folks would always tell you you’d understand something when you were older? You couldn’t wait till you were old enough to ride a bike without training wheels. Then you couldn’t wait till you could drive a car. Oh, how you ached to be older!
But once you reach a certain age, something happens. Things go in reverse. All of a sudden, no one is looking forward to what they can do when they get older. Society has all but convinced us that there is nothing to look forward to once you hit 50 or 60. The message we get every day tell us that being an older person is unattractive and depressing. Now that you’re a mature person, instead of being anxious to get older, it seems like you and everybody else is trying to be younger!
Well, I think there are many things to look forward to as we age. I think there are privileges and benefits only older people get to enjoy. And I think it’s high time we remember that we have things that younger people can’t have…until they’re old enough. Let’s look at two of those them.
I Don’t Care
First, when you get older, you can finally let go of caring so much what other people think about you. For most of your adult life, you spend most of your energy pleasing and impressing others, sometimes sacrificing your own desires in the process. You get the job and buy the house that will make people sit up and take notice. Never mind that you’re not crazy about the work you do and you resent the electric bill and property taxes you have to pay. At least friends—and strangers—are in awe. Many people spend a lot of time wearing a mask so they’ll be liked and respected. In the process, some forget who they really are.
When you get older, you can finally break out of that prison. You have earned the right to stop marching in step and to walk your own path. You have the freedom to make choices that honor your authentic self, at last. You can let go of the trap of living for the expectations of family, friends, and people you don’t even know. This is a privilege only for the very bold and the old. And exercising your right to do what’s best for you instead of what society dictates is good allows you to live a life that is no longer too small. When you get old enough, you can finally be you!
Wisdom of Age
A second benefit of being older is the proverbial wisdom that comes with age. It’s almost clichéd to talk about the wisdom of older people, and it isn’t true that it happens to all of us. But there is something about having a lot of experience in life that offers you a longer perspective. And that perspective helps you see things differently than a young person might. Remember when you were a teenager and a pimple on prom night meant the end of the world? As we accumulate different experiences, we gain a longer view and more practice overcoming challenges. We aren’t as easily thrown by every change. We have learned that giving in to a knee-jerk reaction often causes more harm than good, so we reflect and choose how to respond to events instead.
I remember learning to drive in my sister’s Nova, and when a bee flew in an open window, I panicked. Not stopping to put the car in park, I jumped out in the middle of the road, trying to escape what I thought was serious danger. Never thought about what could happen to my sister in the passenger seat of a car moving down the street with no driver. Now when bee makes its way into my car, I respond more calmly. After many kinds of life experiences, I know that this isn’t anything to panic over.
At this age, I may get upset over something, but that doesn’t help the situation. I remember I have dealt with all kinds of challenges before, and after a few deep breaths, I know I can handle this.
Freedom from the tyranny of conformity and the gift of wisdom from experience are two of the things you have to be old enough to enjoy. So celebrate what you’re old enough to do!