I recently attended an event with a group of people and was chatting with a younger guy. I thought nothing of it, as I was just making small talk and doing my best to fit in.
For those of you who’ve read my book, you know I’m a bit introverted and rather uncomfortable in groups of six to fifty people. So I was surprised when he asked what year I graduated from high school. Well, anyone who’s been single a while knows the “graduation” question is code for “how old are you?” I have to admit I smirked a little inside. I haven’t been asked that question in a long time. Guys my age will ask “how old are your kids?” to gauge a person’s age, because once you hit 50, your age range for dating partners tends to widen. Your actual age is not as important as your stage of life (kids at home, retired, etc.). So when I was asked this question, I had to think for a minute. I looked up, (the way a person does when they’re doing complicated math, after all, it’s been a few years), turned to him and just said it.
He looked a bit surprised and said, “You look much younger.”
I said, “Yeah, people tell me that.”
I didn’t thank him because I don’t believe being younger is necessarily better. When I think of all the stupid things I did fifteen or twenty years ago, it’s like remembering a different person’s life. So often, I would change myself to please some guy I was dating. I thought that’s what they wanted, never considering what I wanted.
But I learned something very special when I crossed the mid-century mark. I realized you can’t please everybody, and that’s okay. Most of us have an undercurrent of personal truth that kind of hovers in the background of our mind. Our personal truth is like our terra firma, the land where our feet are grounded. We can compromise, open our minds to new ideas, and try new activities, but time and experience teaches us that some things are unchanging. For me, it’s knowing that people are essentially good, this too shall pass, and that all we really have is this moment. That’s my personal truth.
I’ve learned I can’t cure a person who thinks 50% of all people are the enemy. I can’t stand to be around chronic worriers, or people who put off being happy today for some fictional time in the future. Knowing this, I understand I can’t make them happy for any extended period of time. They need to learn it for themselves. I know I will likely disappoint them, and there’s nothing I can do about that, because we are each responsible for our own happiness.
Although my personal truth revealed itself over a number of years, that doesn’t mean a young person cannot be wise, nor does it mean older people always possess profound knowledge. There are individuals who are twenty years my junior who I go to for advice, and I’ve known people in nursing homes who still worry about politics and gossip about their neighbor in the next room.
So, for me, being younger is not necessarily better. When given the tradeoff between having a younger physical body for having a better understanding of the world and how it works, I’ll take where I’ve landed right now.