It Can Happen to You, if You’re Young at Heart

I think about getting old a lot.

That’s not entirely surprising, I guess; I’ll be 46 at my next birthday, so my next “big” birthday is the half-century mark, and it’s really not that far away — 2024,  motherfuckers; here’s hoping we all make it there alive. But I am, perhaps, preoccupied with getting old and what it means and questions of how to do so successfully, for want if a better way to put it. It’s been something in my head for years now. The only thing is, my definition of what actually constitutes “old,” has changed dramatically.

I remember, for example, being 10 years old and nearly paralyzed at the idea that I would one day be 20. It’s an astonishingly clear memory even now; I was in the kitchen of my parents’ house and someone had mentioned something — I don’t remember what, sadly — happening in 1994, and the realization that I’d turn 20 that year literally froze me in my tracks. I stood there, unable to move, horrified at the very idea I would one day be twice as old as I was then. That, I thought, was old.

I can also remember my existential anguish when I turned 29, that my next birthday would take me out of my twenties. What horror, to have reached that landmark without the feeling of being a successful adult who deserved to be in their thirties already! In my defense, I was in a relationship with someone whose definition of success involved specific financial benchmarks, and who was unafraid to tell me continuously that I failed to measure up. C’est la vie.

And again, there was a memorable chill when I turned 38. I had officially exited any reasonable definition of being in my “mid-thirties,” I realized, and that could only translate into the depressing fact that I was, unavoidably, “getting old.”

There’s a constant in all of this, noticeably — I am never, in my head, actually old. I’m simply always in danger of becoming old, with the definition of the term constantly revised upwards unintentionally, subconsciously. I read a news report today, and someone mentioned in it was described as 58 years old. “That’s not really that old,” I thought to myself.

Perhaps it’s time to stop thinking about getting old. I’m never going to get there.

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