What would it mean to them if I did look my age? And what factors are they basing their judgments upon?
We are harsh enough judges of appearances on our own. About three years ago the first real signs of age started to appear in my face. We don’t like them typically, but many are dictated by our heritage, our race and our family history. That and some hard miles in the hot sun, the cold wind and the freezing rain can conspire to age your face and body. Throw in a lifetime of typical worry, stress and challenges and the aging process takes hold in our appearance.
Weight of the world
Witness the manner in which most of our presidents age. They take office fresh-faced and eager and leave with a face worn from shouldering responsibilities the rest of us cannot imagine.
That’s why presidents don’t say much about the current president once they leave office. They know the job is difficult, and that being president of the United States or any other nation is perhaps the most thankless position of all. Your popularity ratings are dependent on the whims of an often fickle people that have long forgotten the good things you’ve done while remaining forever suspicious of anything you propose to do. You must also live with the fecklessness or pride earned by any of your predecessors and the people who served them. It’s no wonder age creeps up on presidents faster than the rest of us.
Thanks for that
Yet even at the basic level of a comment like “you don’t look your age” there is judgment at work. Compared to whom? Compared to what?
In the past year I have looked down at the skin around my quadriceps and knees to notice that it is not as tight as it once was. There are lines indicating sun damage and possibly reduced muscle size and tone underneath. My knees give away the fact that I have run more than 40,000 miles in my lifetime and have cycled nearly that much as well. Those tan lines that end at the lower thigh with my bike shorts are beautiful in summer but they also contribute to the autumn of my life. We try to warn our youth that too much time in the sun can harm them. But what did we do? We lived that way too.
To the rescue
So what’s the answer? Sure, some sunscreen might help. But for the most part it is too late in the game to rescue my knee skin. Or the rest of me. I’ve lived too much to reverse all that. The goal now is to push forward and keep the body rocking. Take care of yourself, but not to the point of letting other people’s expectations or limitations define what you can or cannot do. The best solution to all this is to keep moving. That’s what keeps us young. We can slather all we want on the outside of our bodies and try eat healthier. That’s what keeps us going and supposedly safe from the worst vagaries of sun, weather and bad tomatoes. It seems like the things they tell us to do one day to prevent aging are the very same things they tell you the next year not to do.
But keep moving
We keep moving because that is the single most important answer to the challenge of “acting your age.” What does that mean anymore? It means we’ve stopped moving. Stopped being vital. Stopped believing in ourselves. Stopped thinking. Stopped being creative. But if you keep moving, none of that stops.
The right idea
I simply refuse to believe all that bullshit that says people beyond thirty years of age have no good ideas. There are investment types who won’t even talk to brains beyond those years. To them nothing truly new or original can emerge from a seasoned mind. Plain and simple, that is the worst type of age discrimination. Throw out appearances for a moment and consider what it means when someone tells you that you cannot possibly have a new idea. That is perhaps the most dehumanizing comment you can make about anyone.
Business leaders like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates started thinking boldly when they were young. Yet they also continued their innovative leadership well into their middle years and even senior years. Only cancer could stop Steve Jobs from his mission to change the world. Yet his ideas carry on. Not because he was young when he died, but because he thought young when he died.
The dangers in acting your supposed age are encompassed by the fact that you will limit your potential in life if you do. My knees may look a little saggier from now on, but that does not mean they cannot help me run, ride or swim. To hell with quitting. That’s the only time you really show your age at all. At any age.