You know how they say that “age is just a number?”
I can assure you, it’s definitely more than “just a number.”
But I can assure you also: age is not what the culture wants you to think it is.
What does our culture try to tell us about age?
You don’t have to look too far to find the answer.
It tries to tell us that the most exciting times of our life are childhood and young adulthood— those times when we are just learning, just discovering, just exploring the world for the first time.
Look at movies, TV shows, popular entertainment of all sorts: to say they focus disproportionately on young adults (conventionally attractive young adults, for that matter) is an understatement.
When the culture portrays older people, it’s often in the context of how they can be mentors or resources for younger generations. That is to say: the younger characters still tend to be the stars and the focus of the adventure.
This has emphatically been the case for as long as I can remember.
Life so very, very often seems to be contextualized by the world as something primarily driven by “the young”— and very often older people are presumed to want to return to their youth.
Old people are often assumed to be tired. Worn down. Jaded.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked with a lot of old people who ARE tired, worn down, and jaded— but I’ve also worked with an awful lot of young people who are tired, worn down, and jaded, as well.
Moreover, I’ve worked with many older people who assume that they’ve somehow missed their chance to live an interesting, meaningful life, simply because they’ve passed a kind of arbitrary age cutoff.
It’s true that, as we get older, it’s often harder to make our bodies conform to what the culture considers conventionally attractive. The pounds tend to be a little more stubborn; the skin tends to sag; the hair (on our heads, and elsewhere) tends to go into business for itself.
But there is absolutely no reason why, as we get older, we cannot continue to create and enjoy a life that is meaningful, interesting, and fun.
There is definitely no reason why, as we get older, we cannot build relationships that are not only deep and satisfying on every level (including physically)— but actually way more satisfying than any relationship even COULD be when we’re younger.
Age is not “just a number.”
It is experience. It is knowledge. It represents opportunities to learn what works and doesn’t work for you; what you like and what you don’t like; what you need more of and what you need less of.
Age is really what makes it possible to live a life beyond the superficialities of appearance.
As I write this, I’m 42 years old, on the cusp of turning 43. Statistically speaking, I’m maybe at about the halfway point of my life, assuming I don’t behave too stupidly in the upcoming decades.
If you’d asked 20 year old me, he’d have told you that 42 seemed pretty grown up.
20 year old me didn’t have a clue.
If I’m any more grown up than I was, it’s ONLY to the extent that I now realize how child-like we ALL are in the grand scheme of things— intellectually, behaviorally, and ESPECIALLY spiritually.
It is not easy to break free from the cultural conditioning about age and growing older that we are ALL relentlessly subjected to.
But I want you to try.
Because you have a life to build here— and that idea that all you can do is be the “wise old mentor” to a younger generation is gong to just drag you down.
You REMAIN the hero of your own movie.
Don’t forget whose movie this is.
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