On Sunday I attended a social event with a group of people whom I enjoy. There were a couple dozen of us there and I had a great time. It was only after the fact that I realized that I was the oldest person at the event. (Howard stayed home with sick Patch.) All of these people are peers for me, many of them are approximately my age, only younger by a year or two. But all of them have families who are younger than mine. They are still firmly in the world of Elementary school and pre-school, while I have two teenagers. The same is true Howard’s siblings, with whom we gathered for a reunion yesterday. Their oldest kids are matched to my younger ones. We’re in different life stages and I have to shift gears in my brain to remember being where they are. Then I feel strange and old because their present is my past. Then I get over it an just enjoy visiting with all these people whom I like.
I begin to understand why people pay attention to forty as a birthday. It isn’t about being physically old. It is about seeing age coming and about seeing the choices you didn’t make. It is about having adult life stages behind me. I’m still a couple of years away from forty and I’ve already got these thoughts in my head. I have never wanted to be a person who complained about getting old. I have always wanted to be happy in myself no matter what. This is the reason that I pay attention to these thoughts. I drag them out in the open and look them in the eye. Then I decide what to do about it.
Of late I have had strong thought elements revolving around being boring, unattractive, and old. These are familiar thoughts. They arrive when I am strained and empty, when I have not had enough time alone to sort my thoughts. I just have to retain enough self awareness so that I can see them for the indicators that they are instead of swimming in them. Right now they flood me because school is incoming and I am uncertain what normal will look like next month. One of the things I have to fit into the new normal is time for me to rest and recharge.
Social events help when I haven’t used all my social energy on business tasks. So I visit with my friends and talk with them about life stages that I’ve already been through. Or I visit with my other friends and talk with them about life stages I’ve yet to experience. These second types of conversations are incredibly helpful to me in managing where I am and where I’ll be heading next. And when I realize that, I’m glad that I get to have the first kind of conversation as well. They help me view my life again so that I can find patterns I did not see before. Then I realize it really is not about who is older or younger, who has more or less experience. They joy is in sharing our experiences so that we all have a broader view of things as they are and as they could be.