Recently, I celebrated my forty second year of life. As usual, the days leading up to my birthday left me feeling older than usual as I contemplated the thought of aging yet another year. It seems I struggle with these feelings of being old every year around the time I officially age in number, but this year was different in several ways. I began to wonder why the usual feelings of negativity about aging didn’t set in as strong this time and it occurred to me that age is really more about a state of acceptance than it is physical changes. Age, it turns out, is just a number.
A friend of mine who is several years older than me was recently in town and we got the chance to talk for a little while before he had to head back home. My friend is always smiling, always positive and is proud of the physical condition that he is in. The conversation inevitably turned to my impending birthday and as usual, I had to give him a hard time about his grey hair. He told me that he had recently come across the secret for staying young. My interest piqued, I asked him to please share with me. He said that I should always use my true age only as a starting point and to always tell others that I am really five years older than I actually am. By always informing others that I was older than my true age, I would accomplish several things simultaneously. First, because I was always projecting myself as older, it helps create personal acceptance of on an emotional level making it easier to deal with the fact that ageing is inevitable. Second, it allows me to appear younger than the fictitious age I give to others creating a feeling of happiness in that my physical appearance doesn’t match the amount of aging one would expect for me. Third, and most importantly he explained, is that when the accelerated age that I pretend I’m at is finally reached in five years time, I would feel like I had already been at that age for a long time ultimately making me wholly comfortable of actually reaching that age in real time.
I was unconvinced of my friends reasoning and scheme to offset the aging process, mostly because I personally think all the shenanigans could be avoided by simply accepting my legitimate age to begin with and then making a personal decision to be happy or not. I have many friends, colleagues and even family members who are in the same age range as myself – some younger and some older. Many of these people appear mostly happy with their situations. As I talk to them and get an understanding of their mindsets, I realize that if given the opportunity to have more – more wealth, more physical capabilities than their age limits them to presently, then they would take the opportunity and run with it. However, these people also appear to have reached a point in their lives where they are more apt to just accept what their limits really are, both on an emotional level and a physical level. Perhaps they can’t run as fast as they once did or attract the opposite sex as they once might have. The difference for them is that they have decided to find a way to be happy with their situations and accept where they are at this point in their lives. Just because these people have accepted their current situations in life doesn’t mean they’ve given-up on their desires to have more. Many of my friends continue to try and better themselves every day by eating a healthy diet, sleeping at least six to eight hours every night and looking for opportunities to enrich their lives on every level. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some of my friends smoke every day, don’t do much in the way of physical exercise and eat a fairly unhealthy diet (in my opinion), yet they still smile and laugh habitually. Acceptance for all of them is not about halting the quest for enrichment, but rather about deciding that instead of being unhappy and moping all day and night, they will be grateful for what they do have each and every day. I too have the opportunity to make a personal choice. Whether I hatch a scheme to project myself as older in order to feel younger as my friend suggested, or if I just accept what I have and look for opportunities to make things better, the bottom line is that I make a decision to be happy. Based on time, age is inevitable, but my happiness is a decision I choose for myself each and every day.
Whatever method I employ for myself as a means to accept my situation is a personal choice. There will probably come a time when I will look back at all the years I have lived and wonder what I have accomplished. Did I do all the things I wanted in life, see all the places I dreamed of visiting? Perhaps not, but the optimism of knowing that I am still alive and can still do something about it creates a great platform for moving forward. I am reminded of a quote by Henry Ford that reads “whether you think that you can or that you can’t – you are usually right”. Everything begins with our emotional state of mind and our willingness to accept something as it is or to make a change. Age, as it turns out, is just a number after all.