“In the foundation of our hearts, none of us sees ourselves as old. Mentally we are all teenagers—teenagers who happen to be trapped in increasingly unreliable bodies.” — James Gurney
I think most of us form our most definitive image of ourselves in our teenage years. In those year we are no longer just children of our parents, but becoming adults with our own ideas about life and our own way of dealing with it all, and we carry a lot of those thoughts and feelings with us throughout our years. My basic personality seems to have remained the same in many ways since I was around seventeen or so. I noticed on joining facebook that a lot of the people who connect with me there are those who I was close to in high school and those who I know now. I wonder where are more of the college connections, but perhaps those people just didn’t make the strong connections that were made in high school, or perhaps we’ve drifted apart more through the years. High school friends are fun to catch up with, and we are either reaffirmed in our view of them or learn new things about them that might surprise or shock or delight us.
This year will mark the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, which I was certainly too young to go to since I was 10 then. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot once more about the aging boomers. I wonder if the reason we fight aging so hard is because we really do actually mentally see ourselves as younger people, and not just the push of society to retain the appearance of youth.
I see my folks, they’re getting old, I watch their bodies change…
I know they see the same in me, And it makes us both feel strange…
No matter how you tell yourself, It’s what we all go through…
Those eyes are pretty hard to take when they’re staring’ back at you.
Scared you’ll run out of time. — Bonnie Raitt, Nick of Time
Now as the years roll on
Each time we hear our favorite song
The memories come along
Older times we’re missing
Spending the hours reminiscing
— Little River Band, Reminiscing
The music I listened to as a teenager still affects me, but differently — some things make more sense now, looking back. I think even then we all realized of course we would get older, but didn’t fully get what the experience would be like. At fifty, I’ve already had cataract surgery on both eyes (second youngest patient they had ever seen), have arthritis in several vertebrae of my neck from an accident as a teen, have high blood pressure, and have had several surgeries as a preventative measure for colon cancer — and all this since turning forty. But I also do yoga, pilates, and strength training and am probably in as good or better shape than I was at forty. I’m certainly in better mental shape than I was a few years ago.
These days I read a lot of blogs by elders — especially Ronnie’s wonderful Time Goes By which provides links to so many elder bloggers. I suppose I’m looking for clues as to what the experiences ahead will be like. I also volunteer with my dog Darwin for pet therapy visits, and so have many elder friends at various care facilities. But I’m sure as I go through my own experiences I will still be surprised — and will still feel like somewhere inside, I’m really about seventeen.